Saturday 21 October 2017

Conal Keaney: Bring back Daly to stop Dub hurling being laughing stock

“Anthony or someone with a profile like that is what Dublin need,” said the Ballyboden St Enda’s man (p), who stepped down from inter-county action in April 2016. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
“Anthony or someone with a profile like that is what Dublin need,” said the Ballyboden St Enda’s man (p), who stepped down from inter-county action in April 2016. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Sam Wheeler

Conal Keaney is urging Dublin to bring back Anthony Daly to transform the hurlers' fortunes after three lean and turbulent years which have left them "pretty much being laughed at all over the country".

Former dual star Keaney (34) is dismayed by the team's decline under Ger Cunningham - with a number of high-profile players withdrawing from the panel - but he is adamant that with the right new manager, they can quickly re-establish themselves among the genuine contenders.

"Anthony or someone with a profile like that is what Dublin need," said the Ballyboden St Enda's man, who stepped down from inter-county action in April 2016.

"It's at a low ebb, a bad atmosphere around the place. But it's not going to take a whole lot to get it back - it needs a big manager to come in and galvanise the squad. I still say that Dublin, if they can get all the players back - and I know that lads are champing at the bit to get back - and get all the players fighting together, then they won't be far off.

"The last couple of years have been so disappointing, for the talent there - everyone in Dublin hurling knows we are a lot better than that... to be pretty much laughed at all over the country…

"I don't think it's huge step to turn it around. When Dalo came in, he really shook it all up and it was a huge positive. Everyone wanted to hurl; is it cool to be a hurler now in Dublin? I'd question it. But there's serious talent there, and serious hunger for Dublin to succeed; and if this appointment is right, there will be good days ahead."

There have been suggestions that former Dublin football manager Pat Gilroy is in the frame for the hurling job, and Keaney would be happy for his old boss to get the nod, despite a lack of small-ball experience.

"It's kind of left-field, but Pat would be very good. He's a good character, well able to deal with individuals. He comes in with a good reputation, and there would be no bullsh*t with him. It just needs some big character to come in and take all the stuff that's happened and draw a line in the sand. It's a big decision for the board, because we can't afford to waste more years."

Keaney, who won a National League medal and a Leinster title with the hurlers, is still playing for his club, and he is impressed by the young talent emerging in Dublin. However, he acknowledges that the success of the footballers makes life hard for the small-ball code.

"You see all the good young lads coming through," he says. "But when the hurling isn't going well at the top, it's easy for a young lad of 16/17 to go, 'I'm going to chance going for the football'. There's a huge love for hurling in Dublin, and every club is producing huge numbers, but to hang on to the best players, you need the county team to be successful, or at least to be competing. And for there to be no negativity."

Keaney won five Leinster titles with the footballers before returning to the hurlers in 2011. He reckons they will face "definitely their hardest test" of the season against Mayo in the All-Ireland final but he expects Jim Gavin's "machine" to prevail.

Conal Keaney was speaking at the launch of the Family Festival of Sport to be held at the Sport Ireland National Sport Campus on Sunday, October 1

Irish Independent

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