Daly tries to manage expectation as priorities switch from survival to ambition
Allianz Hurling League Div 1
Out of the grey, half-lit midlands sounded another klaxon for Dublin hurlers yesterday as their League priorities switched from survival to flickering ambition.
Anthony Daly, naturally, played down the implications of this cold filleting of Offaly in Tullamore, mindful that he is in charge of a group cursed with a history of forgetfulness.
“I suppose the relegation end of things is put to bed now,” said the Clareman impassively, his team warming down behind him. “So, (I’m) delighted that’s out of the way, at least.”
Dublin, mind, are gathering momentum. A year ago, they came through these same gates on the back of a goosebump performance against Tipperary only to tog out with sleep in their eyes and leak a calamitous 3-19.
A reprise was never on the cards here. They already led by six points when Offaly’s corner-back, Brian Mulrooney, got a straight red for striking with the hurley; thereafter, the business of the day was just a soulless book-keep.
Conal Keaney again pulled the attacking strings for Dublin and found more than capable accomplices in the likes of young Daire Plunkett and, in particular, Ryan O’Dwyer, who bagged 2-2.
The former Tipperary player had far too much for Derek Morkam and Daly could afford the luxury of hauling him ashore with 20 minutes remaining.
Dublin were sharper and faster, Offaly looking a skeleton crew denied the spine of what most would expect to be their championship team when these counties meet on May 29.
What despondency Joe Dooley felt was compounded by the sight of his son, Shane, being helped from the field with a bad head wound as the game was in its death throes. Dublin corner-back, Peter Kelly, received a yellow card for the incident, which left Dooley requiring hospital treatment.
“Shane is kind of badly cut,” said Joe. “We think his ear is hanging off. I don’t know where the officials were looking at the time that happened. These things happen I suppose, but there’s no ball lying on a fella’s ear when it’s dropping down.”
Offaly face a relegation scrap now, and next weekend’s clash with Tipperary in Nenagh is not an enticing prospect for a team palpably low on confidence.
They used three different free-takers yesterday, but only the third — Brian Carroll — looked any way in harmony with his swing. Both Dooley and Joe Bergin had struggled and, given the paucity of ball going anywhere close to their full-forward line, Offaly were operating off the flimsiest of rations.
Full-forward Ger Healion was lucky to stay on the field after a late and hefty hit on Gary Maguire that left the Dublin goalkeeper in need of smelling salts just five minutes in. The sides were level at 0-5 apiece after 14 minutes but, thereafter, the Dubs struck an unanswered 2-7 in 21 minutes.
Keaney set up the opening goal with a smart delivery to O’Dwyer, who easily rounded Morkam before cleverly adjusting his hands to flick past the advancing James Dempsey.
Mulrooney’s dismissal plunged Offaly into chaos and Keaney was like a shark scenting blood in the water. On 33 minutes, he brazenly went for goal from a 30-metre free and a startled Dempsey could only spoon the sliotar up in a convenient arc for O’Dwyer to rifle his second goal.
Offaly’s predicament was caught in microcosm in first-half injury time when Dooley’s attempt to net from a similar free ricocheted harmlessly wide off one of his own players.
To borrow a Nicky English phrase of a bad day at the office, if they had ducks, they’d most probably have drowned.
Offaly were like poker players, down to their last cent and staring at a pair of twos. Later, Joe Dooley would list those missing: Paul Cleary, James Rigney, Derek Molloy, Joe Brady, Brendan Murphy, and David Kenny.
He wasn’t fishing for excuses, mind. Dublin, too, could call out names like ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan, Declan O’Dwyer, Mossy O’Brien, Dave Curtin, Alan McCrabbe and David Treacy.
“We’re in a big battle to stay in Division 1 now,” said Dooley. “It’s probably between ourselves and Wexford at the minute.
“We don’t like to lose at home in Tullamore by this kind of margin at any time. But we’ve just got to pick up the pieces.”
Leading 2-12 to 0-6 at the break, Dublin just eased through the gears. Paul Schutte, Keaney (a monster score) and O’Dwyer all had points in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
Though Dooley flicked a clever 49th-minute goal for Offaly, any hopes of a rescue were culled when Maguire then parried his 20-metre free to safety.
By now, Carroll had been put on the Offaly frees and the job was one of damage limitation.
“The game got messy,” conceded Daly. “‘Twas nip and tuck up to the sending-off. But the second half wasn’t much of a spectacle I’d say.”
With five points from a possible six, the possibility of a League final berth suddenly becomes plausible for Dublin. Asked about Offaly’s performance, Daly smiled. “We know how good Offaly are,” he said. “Galway were supposed to be the other team that could have won the All-Ireland last year, and they could barely beat Offaly over two days.
“We know how they’ll come out when they’re right on May 29 and that’ll be 50/50.”
The truth will out come summer.
Man of the Match: Ryan O’Dwyer (Dublin).
SCORERS — Dublin: R O’Dwyer 2-2, C Keaney 0-9 (7fs), D Plunkett 0-3, J McCaffrey, C Clinton 0-2 each, P Schutte, C McCormack, P Carton, P Ryan and S Ryan 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 1-3 (2fs), B Carroll 0-5 (3fs), C Mahon, D Hayden, J Bergin, J Mulrooney, O Kealey 0-1 each.
DUBLIN — G Maguire 8; N Corcoran 8, T Brady 8, P Kelly 7; P Schutte 7, J Boland 8, S Durkan 7; J McCaffrey 8, L Rushe 6; C McCormack 7, L Ryan 7, C Keaney 8; D Plunkett 8, R O’Dwyer 9, P Carton 7. Subs: S Ryan 7 for L Ryan (51), P Ryan 7 for O’Dwyer (51), C Clinton 8 for McCormack (58), S Hiney 7 for Schutte (60).
OFFALY — J Dempsey 7; S Egan 7, D Morkam 5, B Mulrooney 4; R Hanniffy 6, D Hayden 7, M Verney 6; C Mahon 7, C Parlon 6; J Bergin 6, J Mulrooney 6, C Egan 7; B Carroll 7, G Healion 5, S Dooley 7. Subs: D Currams 6 for Parlon (41), M Cordial 6 for J Mulrooney (44), S Wynne 6 for Healion (50), O Kealey (not on long enough) for Dooley (66).
Ref — A Kelly (Galway).