Friday April 02 2010
COMPARED to this time last year, Dublin’s National Hurling League results don’t make for particularly pretty reading.
A single win — a somewhat incredible nine-point humbling of Tipperary — remains their only positive result in a competition where it was widely expected that the Dubs would prosper this year.
Yet for all those who reckoned Dublin would ‘kick on’ from their third place finish in ’09, there were just as many warning of ‘second-season syndrome’ for Anthony Daly’s men.
Whereas 12 months ago, a spot in the final was still achievable, Dublin now have the reality of a possible relegation struggle facing them down the home stretch but manager Daly is refusing to panic and remains positive about most of his team’s endeavours to this point.
“We’re really learning from this year’s league,” Daly told the Evening Herald. “Last year’s league there was probably more of an element of the unknown. I just could sense a real intensity last weekend (against Cork).
“We probably would have won with that performance if it was against a couple of those teams last year.
“Teams are more wary of us, especially coming to Parnell. We’ll be trying to focus on getting a performance out of ourselves and battling right to the bitter end. If that could bring us a victory or a draw or something, that would be great.”
This Sunday, Dublin visit Pearse Stadium in Salthill to take on the top flight’s form team, Galway. A victory over Kilkenny last Sunday hardly constituted a major shock given the Cats’ uncharacteristically lethargic league form but with the addition of seven Portumna players to training this week, John McIntyre’s charges represent as tough a proposition as anyone in hurling just now.
Yes, Dublin have beaten Galway in their last two league encounters but significantly, both victories were in Parnell Park and, more recently, the Tribesmen beat Daly’s side by seven points (1-22 to 1-15) in their Walsh Cup final clash back on Valentine’s Day at Parnell Park.
“It’s going to be hard and no one is going to give us a chance but sometimes, that might be the day when you have a good chance,” reckons Daly.
“We’ll try and give it our absolute best. They would be going very well and coming off on a big high after beating Kilkenny though.”
That Dublin have just two points to show for their efforts thus far is a source of concern yet Daly admits to being satisfied by his player’s reactions to the defeat in Offaly in their performances against Kilkenny and Cork.
A plethora of bad wides cost Dublin against the Rebels but, again, Daly reserves special praise for his backs, particularly Tomás Brady, who slotted back into the number three jersey and snuffed out Michael Cussen’s threat after a brief sojourn at centre-back against Kilkenny.
“I was thrilled for him because he had been putting in a massive effort in training,” says Daly. “Things just weren’t clicking for him. He didn’t get off to the greatest of starts below in Waterford. Probably, he was trying too hard.
“He played fairly well for DIT at centre-back so after the Offaly game, we just said we’d look at Ronan (Fallon) in there.
“Ronan wouldn’t be used to playing there either. Fair play to Tom, he wasn’t whingeing about going back in there.”
Up front, though, Dublin have struggled for scores and of his starting six forwards against Cork, only David Treacy managed to register from play.
In response, Daly took off five of that six and he maintains that some of those called on as substitutes are pushing hard for a start against Galway.
“In the heat of the moment, we were thinking ‘we’re behind here. What have we to lose?’,” he explained.
“Probably again, going in three points down at half-time, after playing with the slight wind, is the most frustrating thing.
“Some of the wides were incredible. The forwards were off working on their own the night before in training. I was watching them and they were putting them over from everywhere. Certain things happen in hurling matches on given days.
“But everyone is working hard. You couldn’t fault the enthusiasm and the positivity.
“It’s about going to Salthill and ‘fronting up’ and not being beaten before we go down. It’s about going there and being able to look each other in the face and say that we performed. If that brings a win, great. If not, we’ll drive on. We have to remain positive.”
A defeat on Sunday will leave Dublin with a two-week break to contemplate a straight ‘do-or-die’ clash with Limerick in Parnell Park, the loser suffering the worst possible fate of relegation to Division 2.
Daly maintains that that scenario has yet to be formally addressed within the camp, but knows that his players are well aware of its ramifications.
“We try not to make a big deal about it,” he says. “But fellas know.
“If we don’t win on Sunday, it will come down to the Limerick game. It will be Limerick’s All-Ireland if it does come down to that.
“But Salthill is up first,” Daly adds. “If that doesn’t go according to our plan, we have got to get our heads round Limerick.
“We’d be hopefully winning that to secure Division 1 status,” concluded the Dublin boss.
– Conor McKeon