CONOR MCKEON – 12 AUGUST 2013 02:30 PM
IN Ennis last year, Anthony Daly made the slow walk back from the victorious Clare dressing-room and stopped for a chat. Broken and dejected, he carried the gait of a man who had invested enough effort and emotion for one lifetime and when the inevitable question of his future arrived, he went immediately for touch and bought a little time.
There and then, it seemed wholly unlikely that he could regenerate Dublin to the heights of winning a Leinster Championship or existing at such a privileged stage in the hurling summer but yesterday, reflecting on that very feat but in the bitter context of an All-Ireland semi-final loss, he did the same as last year.
“Ah look, we’ll go away and talk about it,” he shrugged. “Like we did in a hotel in the Northside there last October, myself and Andy (Kettle) and John (Costello) … we thrashed out the pros and cons.
“It wasn’t as simple as the boys saying stay on for the year. We looked at it in every way. It won’t be that simple either. But this is never the time to make a decision. Same in Ennis last year. Let’s see the way things are in the next few weeks.”
The notion of Daly’s time in Dublin being up seems outlandish, though. His reconstruction work has been nothing short of epic.
Promotion was an end in itself. The Leinster title and the manner in which they won it is undoubtedly, the high water mark of this Dublin hurling renaissance.
Even the large following that went to Croke Park yesterday to support his team was testament to the many walls Dublin have broken down and hurdles they have jumped in his five years as manager.
“It’s hard to say, at a moment like this, that you’d have any sense of satisfaction, you know? We just feel disappointed, and heavy hearted. But you know maybe in a few weeks we’ll be able to look back on it with a bit of satisfaction.
“When we’re struggling up in Belfast in a league match or something. Limerick beat us here too and we missed a load of chances. Even at half time against Carlow I think maybe we were a point behind at half-time, up in Parnell, trying to make it through to the league final of 1B. So maybe we will be able to look back.
“It was a great Leinster championship to win, no doubt about that,” he added. “But just disappointed now, because the All-Ireland is a special day. I’d love the lads to have experienced it. And it would have done another whole pile for Dublin hurling, to get into that day, as well.”
Upon agreeing to come back this year, Daly was ratified on a single-year term but presumably, if he has the interest to go again, the relevant parties in Dublin will shove the appointment through.
Still, colouring his disappointment over the next couple of weeks will be the fact that with so much moving and shaking going on in the hurling championship this year, an All-Ireland was a very distinct possibility.
Perhaps though, as he stressed himself, Dublin’s resurgence will be more permanent this time.
“Well any time you get to an All-Ireland semi-final . . . but sure who are the big guns?” he asked.
“I feel we’re the big guns at this stage. But any time that you get to the semi-final and are a point down, in the 66th minute, you feel it’s a chance lost.”
Dotsy O’Callaghan, one of the men who has been transformed this year, reckoned that the satisfaction of what they achieved may take some time to fully poke through the agony of yesterday.
“We’ve had a great year but the way the championship turned out it was wide open and I suppose everyone left in the semi-final viewed it as a great opportunity,” he said.
“Look, we have had a good year. Obviously we wanted to go a bit further but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. At the moment it doesn’t feel like a good year, we would have liked to have gone on further but it is not meant to be. We will have to review where we’re at.
On the subject of Daly’s future, O’Callaghan was similarly disinclined to make bold or brash statements.
“Look, it is too early for me to say, I don’t know what anyone is doing. It will be a long winter now and I suppose people will be looking at themselves.
“There will be no decisions made today anyway.
“Maybe in time,” he added. “Not today, but maybe in time we can look back and say it was a good year.
“We had five weeks to gear up for an All-Ireland semi-final and that was the approach we took.