Days like this are a rare and special thing. Dublin are the new national hurling league champions – their first title and first national crown since 1939. For those of us who’ve lived through some of the darker chapters of that interim 72 years it’s a surreal moment. But no, it wasn’t a dream. The longer Sunday’s match with Kilkenny went on, the more freedom crept into their play and the more the weight was lifted the better they hurled on what will go down in history as a special day of deliverance for Dublin.
This is one of those things that’s taken well over 10 years for an ‘overnight success’ to happen. It’s cost millions in euro but actually trillions in time invested carefully in coaching and training the right mentors and hurlers all over Dublin to make this dream a reality.
A wave of talented underage players arrived who tasted success at minor, under 21 and college level and this was vital because it enabled them to graduate to senior ranks without the baggage of failure that had been saddled on those who went before them. Now these hurlers, some of them still only in their early 20s, have landed a national senior hurling title at Croke Park against Kilkenny and when the enormity of that achievement sinks in, there is no longer any reason for Dublin hurlers to fear anyone.
Some context is important at this point. Kilkenny were down to 14 men for the second half and without a number of key players. But these facts alone do not dilute Dublin’s achievement. Kilkenny were clearly rattled by the events unfolding around them and they were lucky not to be down more than just one body by the time the game was up. To hold Kilkenny to just 1-1 from play over what amounted to 78 minutes of total action was an astonishing feat. Brian Cody was gracious in defeat afterwards. He has seen the Dublin tidal wave growing from a far but he was powerless to stop it crashing over him.
For Dublin context, consider this – Dublin have played Kilkenny three times in 2011 and won twice and drawn once with the two wins coming in the Walsh Cup and NHL finals. Fate has a funny way of working out. A week ago the Dublin footballers suffered a disappointing implosion –arguably because they lacked Conal Keaney’s presence to kick over crucial frees with his left boot late against Cork. One week on, Keaney plays a heroic role in Anthony Daly’s men’s march to hurling glory. When news broke that Keaney was going with the hurlers this year there were those who wondered aloud if it was the right decision. To his credit, he looks as if he has never been away. To single out players on this day seems like an injustice because there were Herculean feats of hurling strength everywhere. But Ryan O’Dwyer, Paul Ryan and Johnny McCaffrey were particularly prominent. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect sky blue day was the serious looking shoulder injury to Joey Boland which will almost certainly rule him out for the first Championship match.
No one should underestimate the enormity of this win. And coming a day after Leinster qualified for the Heineken Cup final it was a vital response from Dublin GAA to keep Gaelic games prominent in the Capital. In 1974 an unknown bunch of footballers won the hearts of Dublin people and started an unprecedented period of success for the game in Dublin as ‘The Dubs’ were born. It’s exciting to think what the future may yet hold for this Dublin hurling team. They’ve won the first two competitions of 2011 but face into Offaly on May 29 at Parnell Park knowing more than ever that Offaly will be out to get them. Dublin are on the tougher side of the Leinster draw and would have to beat Offaly and Galway to reach a Leinster final. But after the year so far they need fear no one and can improve further still. They were nervous in the opening 10 minutes and shot some poor wides over the game. The team has room to improve and key men like Alan McCrabbe and David Treacy to get fitter and sharper.
A final word to the terrific support who turned up to be a part of the historic day. It was a great day for the small band of die-hards who have soldiered long and hard. But they’ll know that the sight of so many sky blue fans in the crowd was also important and the roars of encouragement played a part. The city is crying out for a successful team to support. The Dublin footballers have not been abandoned, but rather, the hurlers have joined them on that pedestal and deservedly so. A week ago everything looked black. Now the future and the summer is potentially all sky blue as the footballers and hurlers of Dublin face the best of the rest.
Article Source: the dubhub.ie
Written by Cian Murphy