McCann: Dublin must keep it up
Dublin players on the Leinster team that defeated Connacht in Railway Cup Final, from left, Peter Kelly, Gary Maguire, Joseph Boland and Conal Keaney. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
WATERFORD won’t be handing out the tic-tacs in Walsh Park on Sunday afternoon. Day three in Division 1A of the Allianz Hurling League.
“It will be a tricky one,” predicts the former Blues brother, Conor McCann. “Waterford have some very skilful players. I think they will be there or there-abouts in the league and championship this year.
“I wouldn’t write off Waterford. They had a few decent games last year. I think they can improve on that again. Waterford can be the dark horses.”
Yet the ex-Dublin captain states that leaving Walsh Park with a win is well within the compass of Dalo’s Diamonds.
But only if they show the same tempo and skill levels that they displayed against the All-Ireland champions, Clare, in Parnell Park the last day.
“If we could re-produce that performance, we are in with a good chance,” says Conor. “And if the lads could lift it even more, all the better.
“A win in Waterford would put Dublin in the frame for a possible play-off place. The league is proving to be a very close affair so far. There is nothing between the teams.”
Waterford lost away to Tipperary and beat Galway at home, and Conor warns that winning on the road will not be easy. Far from it. He has been a long-time fan of The Déise.
“They love their hurling in Waterford. There is always a nice style about the way they play the game. I fancy them to do well this year.
“If they avoid Kilkenny, they will be hard to beat in the summer.” Conor wasn’t too worried with Dublin’s result in Galway. “I wouldn’t have been panicking. Going to Galway in the first match of the league is always going to be hard.
“Anthony Daly and the management obviously said their few words, and they got the reaction against Clare. If they could target another win and a draw, they could make the play-offs.
“It is going to be nip and tuck. I just hope the scoring average from that Galway defeat doesn’t come against them.”
But despite the echo from the N17, Conor is confident that Dublin can rattle and hum again, come the summer.
“After what they achieved last year, I’d be optimistic. And the lads realise it themselves that they can step it up a little bit.
“They were almost in the All-Ireland final. The sending off (Ryan O’Dwyer) in the semi-final against Cork was very soft. It was very unfortunate. I think if that had not happened, Dublin would have won that game.”
David O’Callaghan’s form was noted by all. There was such a zest in his play. And already, Conor is impressed by what he has seen this term.
“Dotsy was excellent last year, but he looks even sharper now, and this is still very early in the season. He looks like a fella that has been working very hard.
“Having Alan McCrabbe back is also a big boost.” Conor has followed McCrabber’s old Craobh colleague, Jonny McGuirk, into the manager’s office at Whitehall Colmcille.
“I have only started in management. It’s a different challenge. It will be interesting.
“Jonny has left a fine squad. He brought them to a good level, so it’s a hard act to follow.”
Conor is joined in the dugout by Martin Troy, Lar Canny and Michael Connolly. “There’s great experience there. We’ll be trying to get the best out of the panel.
“We are in Division 2. That is going to be very competitive. There’s five teams there who play in the senior championship. It is going to be a very tough league.
“There’s a wonderful set-up at Whitehall. There’s plenty of young players coming through. The club is looking forward. They are trying to get their teams to the highest standard. The new pitch is tremendous. Hopefully we’ll do justice to a surface like that.”
Conor did justice to the Dublin jersey. He wore it for over ten years.
“We were knocking on the door. We were getting up a head of steam when Lar Foley became ill. That put a stop to it.
“We had developed a good blend at that stage between the younger and more experienced lads.
“The potential was there.”
Lar and Michael O’Grady made lasting impressions on him. He hopes to carry their wisdom into his own career now, as well as that of people like MJ Ryan, Stephen McNamara and Tommy O’Mahony at his beloved Faughs.
He’ll miss togging out at Tymon. Faughs is in the blood. He was reluctant to fold up the jersey and put it at the back of the wardrobe.
He played last season. And played well. But the injuries were a calling.
“I found it very hard to hang up the hurl. It is very difficult to make a decision to stop. And I feel even this season I could come on for, say, 20 to 30 minutes and make a contribution.
“But I got a couple of injuries. It is harder to recover from them. You could get a knock and be out for two months, so maybe it was time to give up.”
But like the great Johnny Murtagh, one door closing leads to many new windows opening. Conor will bring his wisdom to Whitehall, and they’ll be all the better for it.
He has learned much from all his mentors. How and how not to do things. And on Collins Avenue, he is determined to keep the good side out.