FRESH from an opening competitive outing of the year only slightly more taxing than an afternoon stroll in Portmarnock, Dublin hurling boss Anthony Daly declared his team’s intentions to go on and try to win this season’s Walsh Cup.
A strong Dublin selection seized almost complete control of the second-half of their 2-16 to 0-12 defeat of NUIG in Naomh Mearnóg’s grounds on Saturday, outscoring their third level opponents by 1-11 to 0-4 after the half-time interval.
And Daly, who steered the Dubs to silverware in last year’s Walsh Shield and has espoused the virtues of that success, said his side would be going full-throttle at attempting to capture the Walsh Cup this time around.
“It was good to us last year,” said the Clareman.
“We went down to Laois and had a good old battle down there and then the match in Banagher was a great old victory.
“It set us up very well for the league. It’s competitive anyway whether it’s shield or cup or what-ever, we’ll be doing our best to try and win it.
Nevertheless, Daly added that his team were engaged in plenty of heavy training and as such, were still well away from their optimum hurling level.
“We want to be trying to win every game and that’s how we go forward but obviously the league is the big priority for us.
“We’re doing Tuesdays and Thursdays and that’s heavy going.
“There would be a lot of running involved.
“We’d be doing a bit of hurling on the astro on a Friday night.
“Fellas need striking and they need first touch work.”
One player who might have had cause to be rusty but who excelled on Saturday was centre-back Ronan Fallon.
The St Vincent’s man played only one full match for Dublin last year before a foot injury destroyed his championship hopes but his natural timing and touch were back firmly on display against NUIG.
Fallon was impervious in the air, snappy around the fringes and gave an exhibition on how to clear from defence without being hooked, while his arrowed, angled deliveries into the corners contributed to the feast of scores which Dublin enjoyed in the second half.
“If you were a Premiership manager, it would be like signing a new player,” enthused Daly of Fallon’s return.
“He was so frustrated last year with the injuries.
“He’s working very hard in training and it’s showing there.”
Dublin, shorn of the talents of David O’Callaghan, Joey Boland, Oisín Gough, Liam Rushe, Paul Ryan, David Treacy and Tomás Brady due to their own college commitments, produced a decent performance against a strong NUIG team, featuring three of Clare’s All-Ireland U21-winning team of last year.
They seized the upper hand against NUIG with Kevin Flynn’s well-taken goal in the 23rd minute after Mick May’s long delivery but the students rattled off the last four points of the half to level the game at 1-5 to 0-8 at half-time.
Johnny McCaffrey sent over two excellent second-half points after breaking from deep, latching firstly onto a pass from John Kelly and then surging onto Flynn’s hand-pass.
Finian Coone’s frees kept NUIG in the hunt but Dublin found a couple of extra gears in the final quarter of the match, with John Kelly claiming five points from play while David Curtin’s 54th-minute goal killed the game as a contest completely.
Alan McCrabbe, standing over a banker of a free from 40 metres, spotted the Ballyboden man unmarked closer to goal.
Curtin’s low drive left NUIG ‘keeper Donal Touhy with little chance of stopping the goal.
After that, it was fairly straight forward for the Dubs, though 15 wides over the 70 minutes illustrated some of the seasonal rust has yet to be scraped away.
However, there were strong performances from Naomh Mearnóg’s David Byrne, McCaffrey and the evergreen Flynn at full-forward.
“Colleges teams are a great old test this time of the year because they’re All-Ireland is coming up with the Fitzgibbon next week,” Daly commented.
“The lads we’re missing are big players for us but what can you do at this time of year?
“You’d like to have them all available to you but that’s the way it is.
“The lads are working hard and it was good to get the run out.”
As for hometown boy, Shane Ryan, the process of realignment with intercounty hurling is ongoing.
Lining out again at centre-forward, he bagged the first point of the match, should have had a second after the break after fetching one of Gary Maguire’s puck outs and put himself about before being substituted in the 52nd minute.
Certainly, Ryan’s aerial abilities mark him as a serious prospect and marking no less a man than John Lee, he was industrious and busy, though he never got the opportunity to run at the NUIG defence and his touch went astray on occasion.
“He started well,” reckoned Daly.
“There was just a couple of mistakes.
“We probably just needed to freshen it up there at the end.
“We’d liked to have left him on for the full hour but people are looking at him too much. He needs time and these sort of games.
“But he had a good start and got his score. He’s coming on all the time. Who’s to say where he’ll be by June.”
Daly takes his Dublin side to Wexford next Sunday for a semi-final date after Colm Bonnar’s men beat UCD in their quarter-final yesterday.
– Conor McKeon- Evening Herald