Daly can take heroic Dubs to next level
IT was nothing short of a heroic effort from Dublin in Croke Park yesterday. Despite everything that went against them, between injuries to several of their front-line players and the concession of a very soft early goal, they produced a display that franked their status as one of the front-runners of the pack looking to close the gap on Tipperary and Kilkenny.
After Peter Kelly's stumble that let Lar Corbett in for his usual goal in a championship match, you might have feared the worst but Dublin rallied and with an extra man in defence, they made life very difficult for a Tipp forward line that had run riot in the Munster final.
To a man, Dublin were superb in defence but Kelly was particularly impressive. He recovered from his early mistake and hurled like Cuchulainn from there on and by the end of the game, Eoin Kelly, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and Seamus Callanan had all been called ashore.
The extra man in defence did mean that goals were going to be hard to come by for Dublin and so it proved. They went in level at the break but might have had a small lead had they been a little bit more clinical.
They stuck to the game plan -- a sign of the total belief this Dublin side have in Anthony Daly -- until the final few minutes when, to their credit, they threw caution to the wind and went to try and win the game. They ultimately came up short but as defeats go, this was one of the more palatable losses.
And the future is bright for Dublin hurling. The minors are in an All-Ireland final and you'd also expect the U-21s to make it past Antrim and progress to their decider and that's why Daly must stay and bring his side to the next level.
Tipp had that little bit extra, just in terms of touch in vital situations but that will come for Dublin as they pick up a little bit more experience. They never really threatened Tipp's goal and that's something they'll need to start doing if they are to make the next step. That said, they've already made quantum leaps this year and if you'd have offered Daly a Walsh Cup, National League title and an All-Ireland semi-final appearance at the start of the year, he'd have taken your hand off.
Declan Ryan also had a little bit more class to call on from the bench too. Brendan Maher was always going to see some action, Shane Bourke is an accomplished player as is Pa Bourke and Brian O'Meara but that type of game might have been exactly what Ryan wanted for his side.
With all the talk about Tipp since the Munster final, it would have been very difficult for some of the hype not to seep into their mentality but yesterday will have knocked that on the head. It was physical and intense and the perfect warm-up for a third All-Ireland final with Kilkenny in as many seasons. Ryan acknowledged that his side have plenty to work on over the next few weeks but they are nicely primed to try and win back-to-back titles.
With all the talk of tweaking league and championship structures, we are still left with the two best teams in the All-Ireland final, which is the way most people want it to be. The first Sunday in September promises to be another epic encounter
As I already mentioned, the Dublin minors were impressive in their win over Waterford. Shay Boland's side are much like the seniors in that they are very strong in the air and have very talented players in Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Winters.
It'll be an interesting final with Galway. They met in a challenge earlier in the year and the Dubs turned over Mattie Murphy's side but how much of their hands people were showing remains to be seen. Galway also finished with a stronger side against Clare than they started with so they will probably improve for that outing, but that will be a fascinating game.