Wednesday December 16 2009
CONOR MCKEON: What were your impressions of Dublin hurling prior to being offered the job?
ANTHONY DALY: We would have had the upper hand over them all down through the years with Clare. Dublin really had an awful record against Clare — in the qualifiers especially. But I knew of the underage progress.
I knew that they were at a point that was somewhere similar to where Clare were in the late eighties/early nineties. I knew that the likes of John McCaffrey, Tomás Brady and Joey Boland were coming along in Dublin.
It was probably my job when I was in RTé to be on the ball and I covered one or two of their matches while I was on as well. I had a fair idea that there was a nice bit of talent coming through.
CMcK: What motivated you to take the job?
AD: I was approached about Wexford and Limerick. Logistically, Limerick would have been an awful lot easier. But I just couldn’t see myself managing Limerick being a Clareman. Nothing against them at all, but there’s fierce rivalry there.
I agreed to meet the lads when the call came and I was just impressed with the way they wanted to go and what their thinking was. Realistically, Clare — in the immediate future — or Limerick or Wexford or Offaly, I don’t think they can win an All-Ireland. Yet you have a certain section of supporters who nearly expect that you can win an All-Ireland because there was relevant success in the nineties. The Dublin lads were more pragmatic about it. They wanted to try and take it to the next level. They had realistic targets. That’s why it was all done and dusted within a week.
CMcK: Dublin’s league campaign mixed some good wins with narrow losses. Looking back, do you feel there were opportunities missed?
AD: We got a bit lucky in some ways. Galway seemed ill-prepared when they arrived in Parnell Park. They didn’t seem to be 100 per cent on the day. We had come off playing terribly in Cork. Our attitude in Cork was all away from what I’d like it to be for a National League game. Fellas didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as me anyway.
There was a few home truths told that week and we got a great response and probably caught Galway a bit cold. You probably wouldn’t be beating Galway by that much ever. But Jesus, it was a great old fillip for everyone.
Against Waterford, obviously Davy (Fitzgerald) explained that the lads were at the boxing the night before. Yet then we played great stuff in Thurles. I would say the Tipperary match was our best performance of the league. We could have been swamped a couple of times in that game and never were. We kept going back for more. The performance of the likes of David Treacy that day — Jesus, I took great encouragement from it.
Again in Nowlan Park we never chucked it. We kept going and kept going. The Limerick game is the one that would stick in your craw a bit. We had enough chances to win it. Both times this year against Limerick, we should have beaten them and didn’t. And they were ultimately the two games that cost us a place in the league final and the All-Ireland semi-final.
CMcK: What baggage does the Limerick defeat in the championship leave you with heading into next year?
AD: You try and learn from every day. You have to analyse those things and we haven’t done it yet with the players because it hasn’t seemed appropriate. But we will be doing it in the New Year. We’ll be looking at why this happened or why that didn’t happen. Dublin have no right to be saying ‘we’re going beating Limerick’.
I think on that day, the Limerick players felt their backs were against the wall after being terrible against Laois. The best thing that could have happened to us was if they had hammered Laois. People were making us favourites to beat them. Going down to Thurles to play a Munster team in a quarter-final for the first time; it’s a whole new set of scenarios and we didn’t handle them that well.
Now, having said that, I will say this straight out: (referee) Michael Wadding had a big part to play in the result. Instead of being three or four ahead at half-time, we went in level. To me, we didn’t deserve to go in level if we had gotten fair call. Sometimes that can happen — a call goes against you. Refs love making it tight and balancing it up.
Their little bit more experience and craft told. All of their backs played in the All-Ireland final two years previous. For Dublin to be coming up and beating a Munster team in Thurles in front of a lot of their own supporters … I think their Mark Foleys and their Brian Gearys dragged them through. We’ve to learn to do that now. We’ve to learn to drag through those games when you’re in trouble.
Young lads can’t be looking to the older fellas any more. They have to realise you’re a leader straight away now. And the guys that were playing in their first year last year had to find their feet and find them very quickly.
CMcK: Liam Rushe, óisín Gough and David Treacy all made a positive impact in their debut seasons. Were you surprised by just how good they were and would you be confident two or three new players can do the same in 2010?
AD: A little bit. They showed signs straight away that they were of exceptional quality. But they made huge strides throughout the year. You have to consider Liam Rushe was a minor the previous year and pinch yourself every so often. You’d be giving out about an oul’ ball he’d lose in a league game then you’d be reminding yourself walking up and down the line saying ‘Jesus, your man was a minor last year.’
Treacy and Gougher would be like that as well. But they made huge strides during the league. There’s a few lads who could make that sort of impact next year. Peter Kelly was awful close to the team last year. Simon Lambert too. Paul Ryan is back, so is young (Niall) McMorrow from Boden. Kevin O’Loughlin from Crokes. There’s a few coming on there now.
CMcK: You had Alan McCrabbe in your Sunday Game team of the year. Were you surprised, though, when he won the All Star, and do these awards have any real significance?
AD: They do. To win an All Star is a massive achievement. It’s recognised amongst all hurling people. After winning an All-Ireland or a Munster or Leinster medal — it would be a serious achievement. It’s a big honour for Alan and his club and his family.
I think Dublin did a lot of good hurling over the year and somebody was always going to be in contention. You have to go back to the Leinster final and Alan’s performance. Go back to his National League — he had a few exceptional days. I think he fully merited it and I’d make no apologies for having him on my team.
CMcK: You recently agreed to a one year extension, taking you into 2011 with Dublin. How long did it take you to decide to commit for another year?
AD: The driving thing and the amount of time you were spending up here was a serious consideration. If I got a poor enough response last year or felt we were going nowhere, I wouldn’t have gone back to tell you the truth. The original agreement was two years but we said we’d look at it at the end of the year. There was a feel-good factor all year and I just said, ‘F**k it, we’re on a good thing here, let’s go with it.’
But again, this time next year, I’ll be sitting down with John Costello and Gerry Harrington and having another look and see is it working again. I know the county board wanted to put a bit of continuity on it and people can say Anthony Daly is going to stay on for two more years and by Jaysus I will if the feedback and response is there and the people are happy enough that they want me to do another year. I’ll do it. Obviously if things go tits up, it’s another story.
CMcK: What do you hope to get out of the National league in 2010?
AD: We’d be hoping to get to the final. That would be our target starting off. Firstly, you have to secure your Division One status and that’s crucial for us. Most of the tough games are at home. The big glamour ones; Cork, Tipp and Kilkenny — the traditional superpowers of the game — are all in Parnell. They’re massive days.
You’d hope there would be a big crowd there to support Dublin for those. We’ve tricky away games too.
Every league game is going to be tough and hard. But it’s going to be the same for the team playing us, I can tell you.
CMcK: Is the bleeding of talent to the footballers stunting the hurlers’ progress?
AD: I’d really love to have everyone available to us. I don’t know what way Shane (Ryan) will work out but it won’t be from want of effort from what I’m hearing anyway. Whether he’s the kind of thing we’ve been missing in certain positions, I don’t know. But I’d love to have the two O’Carrolls, I’d love to have Conal Keaney. I’d love to have the best hurlers in Dublin available to me and available to hurl and let us pick the best fifteen in the county. That would be a fantastic position to be in and most managers in the game are in that position.
You can’t think of too many of them that aren’t in that position. You look at Davy in Waterford being able to get the likes of Brick Walsh, who’s a fantastic footballer. It would be a bit like Kerry. I’m involved with Kilmoyley giving a hand there and you wouldn’t get any of the Kerry footballers. Paul Galvin is one the best hurlers in Kerry. Eamon Fitzmaurice is an excellent player. But you just won’t get them.
In Dublin, you’d be hoping that you’d been on an even level and some of the young lads would be choosing hurling over football. Recent developments would indicate that that’s not the case yet and there’s lots of work to be done.
CMcK: The draw for next year’s championship puts Dublin on a collision course with Kilkenny in a possible Leinster semi-final. Is this a setback or a genuine chance to beat them?
AD: We have to worry about Laois or Carlow first and I know that Laois are working hard already. I know Niall Rigney well and that will be a huge game for us but if we can win that game, one of us is going to have the first crack at beating Kilkenny since 2005. What better position to be? Ourselves, Laois or Carlow are going to be the first team to get a crack at beating them in five years. Jesus, if fellas don’t want that, they shouldn’t be playing.
CMcK: How much more optimistic are you about Dublin hurling now compared to 12 months ago and just how far do you think it can go?
AD: I think a whole lot more optimistic. I really do believe Dublin are going to win an All-Ireland. It mightn’t be on my watch but I don’t think Liam Rushe and David Treacy, Tom Brady, Joe Boland are going to go through their careers without winning an All-Ireland. I think that’s a great hope for all Dublin hurling people.
They seem to be the right sort of guys and there seems to be the right quality of guys coming behind them from what I can ascertain — guys for whom hurling is the only game. There’s no question of playing one or the other. Hurling is their first love.
I really do think they can do it. But is winning an All-Ireland in the next two years realistic?
I don’t know.
– Conor Mckeon