Dublin have plenty more in the tank - McCaffrey
Published 21/07/2015 | 02:30
Slowly, Johnny McCaffrey reckons, the Dublin hurlers are getting there.
There have been signs of things coming together. Flashes here, little changes there. But it has rarely all came together at the right time.
And when Galway walloped them in the replay, it called for a major rethink, both on the field and on the sideline.
Manager Ger Cunningham reinvented Dublin's wheel and posted Liam Rushe to centre-back and sent Conal Keaney to the edge of the square.
The players lifted their performances too. Their smash and grab against Limerick wasn't the prettiest game of hurling they had ever played but that didn't matter. Getting back on the horse and staying there was the most important thing.
"The performance probably wasn't where you want it to be, but the win was the key," McCaffrey says. "The manner of the win as well. . . we hadn't been playing particularly well and we got off to a slow start, it was really backs against the wall.
"People were questioning us before the game, that our character wasn't there and we couldn't win big games and that. So to come out on the other side of that was fantastic."
It hasn't been easy to pinpoint why Dublin's season has limped along like it has. Cunningham's appointment is the easy out in that regard, but Dublin had followed a 'boom or bust' pattern under Anthony Daly too.
There was no doubting they could play, it was just a matter of what sort of mood they'd turn up in.
"We've been happy enough with how we've been playing generally all year, bar the replay against Galway, which was a disaster. But other than that we have been quite competitive in all the games we've played.
"You can see (Cunningham) putting his own stamp on things. It's going to take time with a new manager coming into a set-up that had the same manager for six years. Everyone has to get used to that and I think the team is."
On Sunday, they head to Thurles to face Waterford at the same stage their campaign ended 12 months ago. The Deise will pose a different set of questions than they have faced this year.
Even when suffering their first competitive defeat in the Munster final against Tipperary, Derek McGrath's side lost little and they have been installed as clear favourites.
"I've seen a few of their games this year," says McCaffrey. "The main thing that stands out about them is that they work very hard for each other. They are a very good hurling side but they work extremely hard and try get as many men on the ball. . . not just behind the ball but on the ball, and the right men on the ball as well.
"They have been a breath of fresh air and they have added massively to the championship. It's a big challenge for us.
"It is a bit different but we have played against sweepers. The key thing is to try to be patient. You can go in and try win the game in ten minutes and then fall flat on your face.
"You just have to be patient; things are not going to go well all the time, a lot of ball is going to go to their hands, so you just have to be ready to counteract that when they get the ball."
In a way, they have nothing to lose. Waterford are one of the form teams in the country. Dublin are a stuttering for life with August looming.
McCaffrey has been around long enough to know there is more to come from his side and believes their summer won't end without at least one big kick.
"At the end of the day people remember your Championship performances and so far we haven't had anything really for people to remember us by," he said.
"There's a still a lot more in the tank; from the last day, there's a lot to improve on. We feel that we haven't reached anywhere where we need to get to yet, and hopefully that will start coming on Sunday."