WITH the defeat to Clare and the end of their championship still stinging last July, the Dublin hurlers got out of dodge.
Within a week, seven of Anthony Daly’s side were Stateside – but it wasn’t meant to be that way. Dublin were league champions and All-Ireland semi-finalists going into a 2012 campaign that bristled with promise.
But Dublin hurling’s most anticipated campaign of recent times brought only relegation from the top flight and the shortest championship season since Daly took charge.
“We are looking at each game and not looking too far ahead of ourselves,” said Johnny McCaffrey ahead of their season opener against UCD in the Walsh Cup this Friday.
“We might have done that a bit last year and got carried away with ourselves. We’ll look at each game (this season) and see where that takes us.”
Last year, after pushing Kilkenny to the brink in their league encounter, they were given a real chance against the Cats in the Leinster semi-final but didn’t get out of the blocks. They never recovered and their season died with the wounds of that defeat still gaping.
“You get momentum from winning games but also there’s a momentum you get from losing games. It’s hard to get out of that rut,” McCaffrey said. “I know we had two big losses against Galway and Kilkenny in the league and championship and we sort of never really recovered from them.
“We always seemed to be chasing ourselves, whereas the year before we had momentum and we were very confident in what we were doing. There was a couple of small little factors like that.”
The graph has still been overwhelmingly upward for Daly’s tenure but there have been a few body blows this winter. Physical trainer Martin Kennedy joined Jim Gavin’s footballers and full-back Tomas Brady followed suit. More recently, Ciaran Kilkenny’s expressed preference of playing both hurling and football didn’t come to pass and he will line out exclusively for Gavin’s side.
McCaffrey, who will captain Dublin for a third successive year in 2013, played minor and U-21 football for Dublin with Brady. “It was a surprise but I was talking to him the night he made the decision and it’s something he always wanted to do and he said he’d have regrets if he didn’t do it,” he said.
“He’d been offered a few times before and said no. He said he mightn’t get a chance again and he would have regretted it if he didn’t. He’s played a good bit with Na Fianna through the years but it’s something he wanted to have a go at and I wish him the best of luck.
“(To play with the footballers) was Ciaran’s decision and it’s up to him. The lads we have on the panel there now are 100pc behind hurling and that’s what we want.”
Last Sunday brought a win over Tipperary in a challenge game. Daly shuffled his deck a little, with McCaffrey being tried at centre-forward and Joey Boland shifting to midfield.
With a campaign in Division 1B starting on February 23, Dublin won’t be afforded the top-class opposition they got last spring but topping the table can propel them into a semi-final. In any case, a league campaign out of the spotlight won’t do the Dubs any harm.
“There won’t be as much hype around us,” McCaffrey said. “Everyone will be talking about Division 1A. We’ll be under the radar a small bit and that’ll probably suit us.
“Really it just comes down to hard work and everyone pulling in the right direction. When you have a squad, no matter how big or small it is, when everyone is pulling in the same direction it’s going to be very easy to go where you want to go. Everyone is really putting the head down this year and looking forward to the year ahead.”
– Donnchadh Boyle- Irish Independent