Niall Corcoran, Dublin, lifts the Bob O’Keeffe cup
COLM KEYS – 08 AUGUST 2013
As ever with these breakthrough tales there is a moment of catharsis where players reflect and acknowledge a sense of release that allows them to move forward.
For the Dublin hurlers it felt like a team meeting at the back end of last season in the Castleknock Hotel where they ironed out a few creases among themselves.
No management, no officials, just a frank exchange to establish where the responsibility lay for a season that never got off the ground.
Anthony Daly had agreed in principle with Dublin County Board to continue as manager, but had asked that the players convene first and get a consensus on what went wrong and how it could change.
For three hours in Castleknock they thrashed it out, players only. Niall Corcoran (picture, below) had been among the first to call for Daly’s retention and didn’t believe for a minute that anyone would have felt any different when they thought about it.
“It was a very personal… it was no holds barred. There were a lot of things said. Lads had to be realistic and had to take responsibility. Should we blame Anthony or do we look at ourselves?” he recalled.
“There were probably things on the management side that didn’t go well that they’d hold their hands up to, but, certainly overall, the players felt we weren’t going to get a better man than him to do the job for us. The players still believed that he was the man to take us where we needed to go and I think that was what Anthony wanted to hear.”
Last year had flattened them, he admitted.
“It was hard to take, especially after the year we had in 2011, we were expecting more from ourselves,” he said. “Because it happened in 2011, we all thought it was ahead of us and it just didn’t happen. Lads got carried away and it really is a bit of a kick in the back-side when it doesn’t happen – you have to work for it.
“You have to keep your feet on the ground and that’s been the case, but certainly with Dublin we have learned those hard lessons.
“Actually, I think we trained harder last year than we have done this year. It doesn’t always go to plan. But Anthony, you probably saw from the Leinsterfinal what it meant to him, the enthusiasm he brings. He believed in us when nobody else did and as a player it’s very hard to get that from a manager.
“He could have walked away and said: ‘My time is done with ye lads,’ but he didn’t, he kept coming back. He kept believing that there was something there in us and he got it out of us.”
For Corcoran, persistence has been his greatest virtue in an inter-county career that never caught fire with his native Galway.
Overlooked after months of pre-season training under manager Ger Loughnane in late 2006 and early 2007, the disappointment cut deeply and eventually prompted his move to Dublin where he was living and working as a coach with Kilmacud Crokes.
An All-Ireland minor medal winner with Galway, beating them in a Leinster final last month didn’t tug at his emotions in any way.
“Certainly not for me. At this stage (of my career), it was just another game. I don’t feel like I had a point to prove. Maybe in the past I would have felt differently. I’m settled now playing for Dublin. When I play, I play my best for Dublin and for nobody else.
“Certainly for my family (he grew up in Clonfert) and the cousins, it would have been a little bit different. The parents up there shouting for Dublin and my cousins shouting for Galway. A bit of mixed emotions there.
“But I’ve played with Fergal (Moore) and these lads. I won a minor All-Ireland with some of these lads and you don’t forget that. We’ve been in the position of being beaten by Kilkenny in Leinster finals. It’s hard to take.”
As a games promotion officer he appreciates the value of Dublin’s achievements and how it might make his job just that little bit easier.
“Working in the camps you see people, who wouldn’t have an idea of what a hurley is, taking notice and maybe watched the game and the fact that it’s been 52 years (since Dublin’s last Leinster success), maybe you’ll have people who will take a bit more notice of the game.
“Hopefully, they will come to the game, maybe they will bring their kids to it too. And that’s what you want. That’s key. If you look at the footballers, they fill Croke Park. You see it as a nine or 10-year-old. That’s where they want to be and the hurlers have to get to that stage to attract those players.”
After five successive matches, a five-week gap now offers a different challenge against a team that have played twice since their historic victory over Galway.
“The five games we had were key for us in the performances. We seemed to get better in every game and the confidence seemed to increase. But in saying that, we had a few niggling injuries that we could get cleared up.”