Friday 20 April 2018

How could such an astute man as Anthony let himself down like that?

TO reverse Shakespeare's famous line: "We come to praise Dalo, not to bury him."

Because that's probably the first reaction, isn't it, to those pictures of Dublin hurling boss Anthony Daly embroiled in fisticuffs?

Criticise, complain, lambast, slag off. Hit the speed-dial to 'Liveline' and prepare to get outraged. Start writing an angry email to someone, anyone: "Won't someone think of the children?" Basically badmouth him from here to eternity.

In short, bury him.

We're not going to do that, though you certainly couldn't condone what happened at the weekend. During a minor hurling match between Kilmaley and Daly's native Clarecastle, he and an opposition coach became embroiled in an altercation.

This should rightly be condemned. There's no place for such scenes in civilised society, not to mind sport. And the fact that it happened at an underage match exacerbates the wrong.

But for whatever reason, the feeling is more sadness and bewilderment than self-important self-righteousness. Rather than standing in judgment of the man, you feel like asking: how could you let yourself down like that?

That's the thing: however much he might have sinned against his club, his sport or anything else, Daly sinned against himself most of all -- against his great, and fully deserved, reputation.

And his reputation is great. This is a man who captained his county to their first All-Ireland in eight decades, was instrumental in creating the winning scores and topped it off with one of the most iconic speeches in GAA history. Anthony Daly did all this at the age of 24.

Twenty-four, my God -- when most of us were acting the eejit and half-thinking about what we might do with our lives once we could be bothered to get on with them, this man was making history.

He followed up with a second All-Ireland, and a lengthy career as an inspirational leader and classy hurler.

Daly was sometimes abrasive, sometimes brazen, but he always had the respect of rival fans. He commanded it, he earned it.

By his mid-30s, he was demonstrating managerial excellence with Clare. By 40, he was awakening the potential giant of Dublin hurling -- no easy job -- and multi-tasking as an astute, thoughtful commentator on radio and TV.

Maybe that's why those pictures came as such a surprise. You don't expect it from someone like Daly. While his passionate nature is obvious, he is always considered and articulate as a pundit, or in post-match interviews as Dublin boss. The two sides don't seem to fit. You think, he's bigger than that.

The crime, such as it was, is lessened a good bit by the circumstances. This wasn't an umpire being struck, or a woman or child, or a dirty blow with the hurley -- it was grown men squaring up briefly. Not exactly wonderful behaviour, but at the lower end of the scale.

It probably won't permanently stain Anthony Daly's reputation, and it shouldn't: he'll be praised by hurling people long after this unsavoury incident has been buried by history.

Irish Independent

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