SIX days and counting before the Dublin hurlers brush with greatness and the apparently unstoppable Kilkenny juggernaut in Portlaoise next Sunday, a fixture replete with peril, a history of heavy Dublin defeat and one Anthony Daly admitted was “daunting”.
“Kilkenny at their best, we know how great they can be,” insisted Daly after his team had beaten Wexford at the second time of asking to make sure of their clash with the All-Ireland three-in-a-row chasing Cats, on what will be exactly a year to the day since their 18-point chastising to the same opposition at the same venue in last summer’s Leinster SHC.
“We must hope they have an off-day and we have a right good day, that’s the best we can hope for. We couldn’t look beyond this game but we have the week now to get our heads around it.”
It will, for what it’s worth, be a meeting between the Division 1 champions and the Division 1B champions but judging by Dublin’s pair of performances in successive weekends against Wexford, Daly’s men remain some way off the immense standard being set by Brian Cody’s outfit.
Duly, Daly bristled at the suggestion that, despite his team’s clear superiority over Wexford, there was little else to be cheerful about, given the magnitude of the challenge to come.
“It’s an eight-point win in the quarter-final of the Leinster championship, our fourth time playing Wexford this year and we haven’t lost once,” he reflected. “If someone had told me that four years ago I’d have said they were gone off the rails. So, what other positives you can take from an eight-point win, make up your own.
“You’ll have the apes who’ll say we’d have been better off to have lost and gone the other way but I don’t think like that,” he added of the ever-so-slightly accommodating back door draw now facing Wexford (Liam Dunne’s men play Antrim for a crack at Carlow a day before Dublin play Kilkenny).
“Championship hurling is about trying to get a win and that’s the way we went at it.”
As to what he took out of Saturday night, Daly explained: “I’d say we were a lot more solid mentally. The sending-off had a big bearing on it, they obviously had to change formation, into the wind, and the four points before half-time to stretch the lead to eight were crucial.
“The likes of Conal Keaney really stood up at that stage, won a few crucial balls, dirty balls, himself and David Treacy – that was the real winning of the game.
“It could have come down to a dog-fight if we hadn’t got those scores. Ye’ (the media) will tell us it was poor hurling but we can only play what’s in front of us, get the result, that’s the key thing.
“We were eight up turning to face into the wind and won by eight – I’d be reasonably happy. I know Kilkenny mentors won’t be shaking in their boots going home but all we can do is be the best we can be next week, see what we can get out of it.”
Reflecting on Kilkenny’s opening win over Offaly in Tullamore last weekend, Daly added: “They conceded four goals and got no goal – that’s a 12-point start for Offaly, and they still won by five.
“It will suit Brian, he’ll have a few things to say to them in the two weeks. It’s a daunting task but what are you in it for but to try and better yourself and kick on? What are you in it for only to do your best?”