Winners don’t take much time to savour their victories; they immediately set their sights on the next competition, the next trophy to chase.
Liverpool in the ’70s and ’80s were like that. Legend at Anfield has it that Bob Paisley would go around the dressing-room with a box of league championship medals from the previous campaign at the start of pre-season training.
He dished them out like sweets to those who had played the requisite number of matches. No formality. Then, out on to the training pitch. Looking forward, always looking forward.
It’s also the Manchester United way under Alex Ferguson. No sentiment. “We’re champions, now we move on,” is the attitude. The Dublin hurlers are no Liverpool or United. And yet, there is of necessity a touch of the hard-nosed pragmatism about Anthony Daly’s men as they move into the business end of the season.
A diary of their priorities this month could simply read: “May 1, beat Kilkenny in league final. May 29, play Offaly in firstLeinster championship match.”
That’s as it should be in the opinion of lively forward David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan.
“We hadn’t much time to enjoy the league win,” said O’Callaghan. “It was a great day in Croke Park.
“A lot of people put a lot of work in over the years and I’m sure they took a lot of satisfaction out of it as well, but the championship’s just around the corner, so you’d be putting it to bed fairly quickly.”
Dotsy was accustomed to the Croke Park big match-day fervour from his time with the Dublin footballers, but savouring the plaudits from the Hill and the stands with the hurlers was special.
“The hurling support has been growing slightly, but that was the most I’ve seen at a hurling match.
“It was great to look up and see the Hill as well.
“I got a taste of that atmosphere with the footballers, so you’d have been dreaming you could get that with the hurlers as well.”
Central to the success so far has been the input of Clare hurling legend Daly and for O’Callaghan and the players, Daly’s decision to serve another year as manager was crucial.
“At the end of last year, there were huge question marks as to whether he was going to come back, so his coming back basically said to the players: ‘I believe there’s something there’ and that fed through to the players as well,” he said.
The 27-year-old native of Tallaght recalls that for him, as with many another young GAA player, football was the glamour game, but he had been well schooled in hurling through the ranks with his club St Mark’s.
“I did play on the football squad for a few years, but growing up, my main game was hurling,” he said. “I loved the hurling and I’d come into Croke Park for all the All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals and watch them.
“Maybe when I was younger I probably felt the football was the place to be, and I suppose that’s why I gave it a shot, but now we’ve a hurling squad that’s getting stronger every year.
“And then we have Conal Keaney back and I’m sick of telling the younger lads on the panel about his exploits.
“I would have played under-age hurling with him, so I know he’s a fantastic hurler and he’s proven that throughout the league.
“When we found out he was coming on to the hurling squad it just gave everybody a massive lift without a doubt.”
Dotsy is employed as a GAA coach with the Dublin County Board, mainly in inner-city schools.
The Dubs’ victory brings hurling to the notice of the kids, but as he said: “In that area you’re just trying to get them into GAA.
“A lot of them would have seen the final and without doubt it brings an added buzz.
“Kids just love getting out and playing any sort of game, so maybe it can have an effect when they’re seeing the senior teams and going to watch big games in Croke Park.”
Written by Liam Kelly
Article Source: Irish Independent