HE’S been here before, has Ryan O’Dwyer. Banging on about lessons learned and controlled aggression and all the rest and then … bang! Off he goes again.
In fact, there were two things which defined a Ryan O’Dwyer interview there for a while.
Firstly, a declaration of intent that his ways had, indeed, been mended and secondly, the reinstatement of his inherent belief that Dublin were going all the way to September.
For what it’s worth, this time he says he has really copped on, seen the error of his ways and conformed.
He has sat annoyed and frustrated and helpless at too many important matches not to have learned how to control his temper and how to temper his reactions.
First, there was last year’s Leinster SHC final, a damp, dank squib of a match for Dublin after the elation of Tullamore and the win over Galway.
O’Dwyer was like a miserable caged animal sitting paralysed in captivity in the Hogan Stand watching it all unfold after Michael Wadding showed him red.
And then there was the relegation play-off replay with Galway, another tussle with the Tribesmen, another incident where he felt he was more sinned against than sinner and another red, this time from Barry Kelly, Saturday’s ref for the Leinster SHC showdown with Kilkenny in Portlaoise.
He explains the circumstances and you see his point but, heartfelt though he sounds, he knows provocation doesn’t necessarily justify retaliation.
“Sitting there in the stand and knowing there was nothing I could do about it, it was a killer,” he reflects.
“I can’t control referees. I wish I could but I can’t. All I can control is myself, and the way I react to a situation is key at the moment. If something is going wrong in a match, I’m telling myself now I’m not going to react.
“I think my way of reacting to situations is going to have to improve. I would like to think that everyone gets fair treatment but I’m not going to play the victim. If I bring it on myself then I have to deal with it.”
Anthony Daly will be hoping to see a certain symmetry between the two from O’Dwyer this Saturday in what is rapidly attaining the status of the most eagerly anticipated hurling match of the year, despite a certain Munster clash taking place just the next day.
O’Dwyer has been key to all of Dublin’s major victories of the past year. He was a godsend in last year’s league and his hat-trick in the All-Ireland quarter-final at a time when the Dubs couldn’t buy a goal smoothed the path to victory over Limerick.
Kilkenny is different, though.
Kilkenny is the landmark, just as it was when he was with Tipp and perhaps even more so now as a central player with Dublin.
“You think of the Kilkenny team and every one of them are household names. They’ve won more All-Irelands than I’ll ever win,” he says.
Still, he stood in close proximity to Michael Fennelly during the interprovincial series when they both lined out for Leinster and he was hugely impressed with every facet of his hurling makeup and notes what a loss he will be for Saturday.
“You see Mick Fennelly when he was in his early 20s, people were saying he’s only okay. But you can see what they’re after doing with him and what he’s after becoming. He’s outstanding.
“Everyone talks about Shefflin and he is a big player for them, but I think the biggest player for them is Fennelly. He’s such a big, physical presence and his hurling is immense.
“They’re household names but they’re the players you don’t want to be losing.”
O’Dwyer himself isn’t a man Dublin can do without for too long a spell either. When he arrived, he was that rarity in the capital, a ball-winner who could play as a forward.
Then, Keaney came back and Conor McCormack emerged. Then a year later, Ross O’Carroll came back and Danny Sutcliffe emerged and David Treacy got fit.
So while no longer is he the rare species he once was, O’Dwyer remains central to Daly’s attacking alignment, despite the changing shape, size and strength of those around him.
“The one thing this year is that new lads are staking a claim,” he notes. “You see Danny Sutcliffe there, he’s got such confidence. Ross O’Carroll came on and he was in awesome form.
“David Treacy is back, Peter Kelly is hurling well and the timing of the injured lads coming back … But nothing is certain in sport. And we can only look after ourselves,” O’Dwyer adds, before finishing on a familiar note.
“I think it’s shaping up for a good championship and I think that on the first Sunday in September, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
– Conor McKeon- Evening Herald