Dublin hurling manager Anthony Daly (L) and selector Richie Stakelum. Picture: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
CONOR MCKEON – 21 MARCH 2014 03:30 PM
IT was on August 9th 2012, 39 days after Dublin’s meltdown in Ennis and less than 35 miles west in a hotel in Kilkee, that Anthony Daly and Richie Stakelum resolved to talk and talk until such time as they concluded whether or not their continued association with the team “would make it better or make it worse.”
“We had a pint and we just threw it all out there,” Daly recalls now. “Should we walk away and let someone new at it for the sake of Dublin hurling? For ourselves, for the players.
“We chatted for a good few hours and we came to the conclusion that we both passionately wanted to give it another go.”
That it was Stakelum with Daly rather than any county board figure or senior player or, indeed, another member of his management probably tells its own story.
Now Daly insists: “I would never rank the lads one, two three or four. I don’t believe in that sort of thing,” but the perception of Stakelum as a sort of confidant or his seated position beside Daly’s right hand is hard to shake.
And without coming straight out and saying it, had Stakelum figured that night in Kilkee that he had more to give… “Look, at certain times,” Daly interjects. “I would have found it very difficult to go on had Richie not come with me.”
Theirs is not a tale of two men in cahoots, perhaps encountering one another at an ‘Iconic Munster Final Speech-Makers’ convention and unifying for the common purpose of delivering on Dublin’s then unique potential.
They had, bar a couple of casual encounters, no personal knowledge of one another.
In fact, the first individual Daly contacted upon agreeing to take over Dublin in October 2008 was Vinny Teehan, who spent four years as a selector between then and the end of 2012.
Teehan had worked for a while as a coach in Clare and he and Daly had played on the same inter-firms team.
Daly got in touch, mentioned Stakelum’s name as a potential recruit and Teehan responded: “A hundred per cent. He was the first name I was going to say to you.”
“I was very aware Richie was in Dublin,” Daly reasons. “And look, the Stakelums of Borrisoleigh didn’t need any introduction to anyone.”
Around the same time, Stakelum got a text from Nicky English informing him of Daly’s appointment.
“This,” Stakelum, in a recent interview, recalled thinking at the time “may be one of the greatest days in Dublin’s hurling history”.
If he had a hunch (and Stakelum admits he did) that Daly would be in touch, he couldn’t have imagined how alike they are.
“Borrisoleigh is a small village and they would have fought against the odds to win an All-Ireland club. We (Clarecastle) would be sort of the same. We didn’t win an All-Ireland club but we won a Munster club,” Daly reasons.
“They were outside the town of Thurles and we were outside the town of Ennis.
“There is a bit of a coincidence with him being captain of Tipp after them being out of it for so long. There would be an awful lot of things in our past that would be similar.
“He would understand my love of coursing because Borrisoleigh would be a great town for coursing. Things like that.
“Like, he’d mention some fella called Mickey Neddy or Paddy Billy or Jimmy Billy or something from home. And I wouldn’t know the man at all … but I would have a similar character in my head from Clarecastle! Ah, it’s funny.”
“He has a good hurling brain,” explains Daly of Stakelum’s selectorial virtues. “But even more so than that, he has a great people brain. That’s how he has risen to the top in work (Stakelum is Head of Sales Primary Care Pfizer Healthcare Ireland with the pharmaceutical company).
“He’s used to dealing with sales teams and there’s a big correlation there. Getting the best out of people. He’s superb at that.
“Most decisions I’d make, I’d run by him. The way of a game, we’d always have the odd word! I wouldn’t move someone wing-forward and he wouldn’t move someone wing-back. That’s part of every management team I’ve ever been involved in.
“Like, we could go out for a drink of a night or meet for a bit of lunch and sometimes not discuss hurling. He comes to Clare every year for a week or two. We’d meet up for a walk or a bit of lunch and we mightn’t talk hurling at all.
“Then, we might be driving up from Kilkee that night for training and we’d talk hurling all the way. That’s the kind of way we have it.”
“Look,” Daly admits, “he’d be a good friend now at this stage. That’s the thing. At the start, you’re sussing each other out. Now,” he concludes, “you kinda know what the other fella is thinking.”