IN his playing days, there was a time when nothing would energise Anthony Daly more than a cut at Tipperary.
Now, in the season of his return to the topflight with the elite for his Dublin team, he is relishing not just a crack at the Premier County, but even the circumstances surrounding it.
Promotion achieved. The |Limerick ghost exorcised. Back, after only a brief absence, on one of the |big hurling days on the traditional hurling stage, Thurles.
Dublin and the Munster champions on one side of the bill ||||… last year’s All-Ireland finalists comprising the other.
For Daly then, April has been the sweetest month. It could, though, get a whole lot better on Sunday…
PRESSURE ON OR PRESSURE OFF?
Contrasting theories. One says that Dublin have already annexed what they wanted out of the League; the only prize of value from Division 1B being the route out of it, cleared exclusively for its winners.
The opposing hypothesis maintains that, given it is already mid-April and Dublin have faced precisely none of the counties they will attempt to beat if they are to make tangible progress in this year’s Championship, [Shane Hegarty] and as such, Daly’s men need this game and a strong performance more than the character-searching win over Limerick or the necessary obliteration of Wexford which set it up.
“There no doubt that the atmosphere was much lighter at training on the Tuesday night after the Limerick win,” Daly admits of the changing vibe prompted by promotion.
“It was a very tough training session, possibly one of the toughest we’ve done all year. But you could sense fellas were on a high after the win. The week before, you probably felt there was a bit of fear in the air. I was actually saying it on the Tuesday on the way up to training. It was a grand drive up and as I was thinking to myself: ‘picture being at Limerick training tonight’.
“That’s the difference. We’ve had two weeks with the pressure off leading into a semi-final. I know from being around Clare last week and |the pressure that was on to perform.
“It’s such a prize with just six |teams up there. We know it’s a League semi-final. We were League champions just two years ago and we’d love to win it back. But there is not the same pressure at the same time. The pressure is really on Tipp because they’re expected to beat us. We’ll enjoy that.”
Day one: get tanked by Cork. Day five: destroy Clare in perhaps the most complete performance of the League thus far. The wounds of last August may still be open for Tipperary but the healing process has accelerated in recent weeks.
“I would say, from my reading of |it from a distance, they were trying |to get everything together and |trying to get a united camp after the fall-out from last year,” Daly observes.
“There was a lot of talk. In places like Tipp, losing an All-Ireland semi-final … you’d get away with it in other places, but wouldn’t even consider it a massive success when they win Munster now, the way it has gone.
“There was a bit of a fallout and Eamon’s first job was to reunite the camp and get a certain level of harmony going there and that’s probably what they concentrated on |in the early part of the year, without getting too heavy on the training and I’m sure they steadily upped it.
“That’s the way I look at it. I watched the Clare/Tipp match the other night and they were very impressive.
“They looked like the more experienced team and really up for that match. Up to that, they might have been experimenting. They will be anxious to win out the League. Eamon will be anxious to get a trophy as soon as he can.”
It’s a noticeable trend, even if Daly thinks its relevance is slightly skewed.
In his four-and-a-bit years as Dublin manager, his team have scared all hell out of Tipp in their one and only Championship meeting in the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final, beaten them twice in the League, lost once and drawn once in the same competition.
The teams have played out tight encounters in challenge matches, Dublin winning the last one by two points in Nenagh earlier this year.
“We haven’t played them too often, to be fair,” Daly points out.
“There was the All-Ireland |semi-final alright and we were having a good season and there was a great buzz in the camp and with all the injuries, we sort of went into it on a |bit of a free rubber.
“It’s just that the lads fancy playing them because over the last five or six years, they’ve been in the top two – the lads love pitting themselves against those teams.
“That’s the main reason. They love testing themselves on the big days and taking them on in Thurles … it’s intimidating but if a lad can’t go there and have a real cut at that, you’d be worried about it.