Corcoran: Dub hurlers must learn to handle pressure
DUBLIN hurler Niall Corcoran looks forward to 2013 as a year of atonement for the boys in blue.
The 30-year-old Kilmacud Crokes clubman had one major highlight this season – the county title won with the Stillorgan outfit.
Beyond that, it was a surprising drop from the heights for Dublin – and then Crokes lost by a single point to Oulart-The Ballagh in the Leinster club championship.
How different the inter-county scene was in 2011, when Anthony Daly's Dublin stormed to a National Hurling League title and gave Tipperary a huge fright in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
The 2012 campaign was the opposite. Relegation in the league, a drubbing by Kilkenny in the Leinster championship and a qualifier defeat to Clare ended the Dublin hurlers' campaign by July 7.
Was it complacency, over-confidence?
"It was probably a combination of a lot of small things," said Corcoran. "We're going to get the heads down this year and take it game by game and, hopefully, find the form we had in 2011."
Some observers suggested the hurlers had put too much effort into building their bodies in the gym, but that view is not shared by the player.
The Galway native does suggest there was too much pressure on the team – but that they had possibly made too many demands on themselves to progress from 2011 and when results didn't go their way, the deflation level meant confidence dropped sharply.
"Looking back on it, we had a bad start to the league against Galway and were unlucky with a couple of results. The confidence was dented a bit," he said. "Certainly, I don't think our size was an issue. Obviously, we have big players, but every team has big players. Look at Kilkenny – they're huge men too. I just don't think that was a factor.
"We performed well in 2011 and expected a lot of ourselves, but it didn't happen for us. You have to learn to manage that pressure. If you do well, with that there will be pressure. So, it's up to the players to manage it.
"That's a lesson we learned this year. If you go out in these big games, you have to perform and if you don't, then you're going to get criticised."
Dublin's first ambition for next year will be to get out of Division 1B, but Corcoran accepts it won't be easy.
"If you look at the teams in 1B there are a lot of good ones like Wexford, Limerick and Offaly. We also have a game away to Antrim and none of these matches is going to be easy.
"It's going to be hugely competitive for us. The trick is to take it game by game, go back to the basics, concentrate on a performance and, hopefully, the result will follow.
"It's a matter of working hard and seeing can we find the form.
"We're under no illusions – it'll be a very competitive division and we'll have to be at our best to get to the final."