PERHAPS it was the perfect antidote to their last day out in Croker. Last Sunday, after a morning training session and a bite to eat, the Dublin hurlers travelled en masse to GAA headquarters for the Leinster football final.
Two weeks previously, they had endured the on-field trauma of losing their provincial crown in deflating circumstances to Kilkenny. This time, though, instead of being on the wrong end of a 0-24 to 1-9 defeat, they could marvel at their fellow county men demolishing Meath by 3-20 to 1-10.
“It’s all part of the recovery process, to get in there and sit down together, eat an auld ice cream and watch a match!” quips their manager, Anthony Daly.
But there was method in his madness, too. “In fairness to the county board, they gave us tickets. We trained and we had a bit of grub and we all went in. I think it’s been well known that the footballers have supported us …. some of them anyway would have gone to our games,” Daly explains.
“So we just felt, ‘Feck it, let’s go in there’. We didn’t show up in a Leinster final the previous week, and let’s see what a Dublin team can do.
“I thought it was a great exercise, to see how they (the footballers) approach this, and I suppose we saw a bit of Meath in ourselves – or a bit of ourselves in Meath maybe, that they didn’t turn up.”
They were joined by over 62,000 fellow spectators, and Daly reckons it was “no harm” for players to soak up the atmosphere and to ponder how “that could be me down there next week”, albeit in a different venue. He doesn’t expect 15,000 Dubs to travel on Sunday but believes it could be a full house when you factor in the masses from Wexford, Limerick and Tipp, adding: “Thurles is going to be a cauldron.”
What, though, did he make of the Dublin footballers?
“Comparisons aren’t the same,” Daly reflects. “Dublin are at a savage level in the football at the minute; you only have to look at what they can bring off the bench. I don’t think there’s a county football manager in Ireland over the last 20 years wouldn’t like to have some of the subs that they can bring on.”
He continues: “To say they were awesome was a bit of an understatement really. Yet you pick up the paper on Monday morning and I think there’s 12 teams still in it. And yet in the hurling there’s only six.
“You’re one 70 minutes away from getting back to where you were last year, and you’re two 70 minutes away from being in the All-Ireland final. God, there’s a lot of Januarys and Novembers and muck and sh**e (gone through) to be in this stage, so I think the lads have realised that and have come around.
“These three weeks (after the Leinster final) were no harm to have. I know Anthony Cunningham said earlier on in the year that the week was the perfect time; I actually think three weeks is no harm.
“It gives you a chance to have a look at yourself and a chance to train then, and to play (a challenge match) against Limerick; just get out and play a game like that and play matches between ourselves. That’s it. It’s about our lads coming out and producing our best .. and what a chance, like.”
Roll on Semple.
Frank Roche – Evening Herald