This week 12 months ago, Dublin found themselves pitched into a hurling league relegation battle with Galway that they lost, plunging their season into freefall.
The level of ambition had been high. Having reached an All-Ireland semi-final in 2011, Dublin players openly spoke of the “next step” in the progression without ever having to mention precisely what that was.
It was a high wire that they ultimately lost their balance on. When it came down to it, Dublin were not able to breathe consistently at such an altitude.
David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan reflects on where they were this time last year and accepts that they got “carried away” with their ambitions.
“Maybe mentally, lads were maybe talking about getting to All-Ireland finals and going a step further than the year before. I don’t think we were shying away from any of the work on the field or anything like that,” he said.
“But maybe psychologically, we were drifting away from what is required at this level because if you’re even just a couple of per cent off, any team will beat you.
“After the successful year we had, it’s hard to put your finger on it exactly. Maybe we got carried away a bit and started to think things might just happen without putting in the hard work.”
Thus, Dublin have reset their goals and Sunday’s semi-final against Tipperary gives them an early opportunity to mix it with one of the top three in the game.
“We want tests now. Thurles on Sunday will tell us where we’re at. We would be aware that we have to speed up our hurling. But we would feel that that is in us now,” he said.
For O’Callaghan himself, it was a year he would rather forget from a hurling point of view.
Illness and a family bereavement took their toll, reducing him to a peripheral role. At one stage early in the season, he wasn’t even part of the squad.
But he has been rejuvenated this year and is displaying some of the old touches and enthusiasm that made him such an exciting player to watch when he broke into the squad for the first time in 2004.
“It was a bit of a disappointing year all round for myself. But this year, I’m just enjoying my hurling again,” he said.
“That’s a big thing with me. I had other things going on last year, personally, that made me stay away from where I needed to be.
“So I’m just enjoying it again. There is a good vibe in the camp. I’m just looking forward and embracing the challenges.”
Dublin have been able to absorb the blows of losing Tomas Brady to football and other promising dual players in the county who have opted for Jim Gavin’s squad.
O’Callaghan, a dual player himself, says losing players to the more popular game in the city is not something that concerns him any more.
“Maybe a couple of years ago it would have,” he said.
“But we have lads coming through that are hurling mad and all they want to do is hurl for Dublin, even though they might be good footballers.
“I would be quite happy with the squad we’re developing. Even the last day, we brought in a few lads who did very well.
“Tommy (Brady) loved his football growing up as well. He would have viewed it as an opportunity now or never to give it a crack. Best of luck to him.
“Obviously he’s a fantastic hurler as well, but we have what we have and we’re driving on with it.”