Deise edge Dubs but Daly upbeat

Conor McKeon

ANOTHER frustrating league game for Daly's Dubs. Despite their exertions the champions once again ended up pointless but were able to take some positives from the campaign.

A 0-17 to 0-13 defeat by Waterford in Dungarvan for a largely experimental Dublin team wasn't the worst day Anthony Daly has had in a blue tracksuit but he could probably do without what's coming down the tracks in two weeks time.

Daly already knew his team were consigned to a relegation play-off prior to their trip to Fraher Field. All Dublin could control was the identity of their opposition.

Defeat yesterday coupled with Galway's punishment beating in Nowlan Park means it is Anthony Cunningham's men -- rather than the Déise -- who threaten the Dubs' topflight status.

Judging by yesterday's result, though, Galway seem to represent the lesser of two evils.

"Overall, we'd have to be happy," was how Daly summed up the day.

"We've hard training ahead and it will be hard to pick the team for the relegation match."

Daly used the match to field some of his fringe men and rest the weary legs of his most trusted foot solidiers so players like Oisín Gough, Dean Curran, Martin Quilty, David Curtin and Maurice O'Brien all got some beneficial gametime.

Waterford though, had survival as a tangible target so little surprise that they set the levels of pace and intensity, scoring seven of the first eight points and sculpting an eight-point half-time lead, thanks to a classy first 35 minutes from Gavin O'Brien.

"A bit disappointed with the way we started the game," Daly conceded.

"We felt there was a great freedom in the game for us to come down and have a right cut. All the pressure was on Waterford.

"We were disappointed with the way we played in the first half."

For a few fleeting moments in the second half though, it looked like Dublin might make a good fist of actually winning the game, despite a largely poor first-half performance and a stack of wides 18 high by the game's conclusion.

By the 66th minute and Eamon Dillon's third point from play, Dublin had turned a nine-point deficit into just four.

The additions of Conor Clinton and Peadar Carton to the mix at half-time gave Dublin some traction around the middle of the park while Ross O'Carroll's introduction also directly yielded two points from play.

A competitive finish hinged on a hugely contentious decision by referee Diarmuid Kirwan to send Dublin half back Dean Curran off for a second yellow card for a fairly innocuous flick on Eoin McGrath, a decision which irked Daly no end.

"I don't know what we did to Diarmuid Kirwan but whatever someone from Dublin did to him at some stage of life ... .I don't know. Two of the most harmless things and he's put off the field," he fumed.

"We said at half time, 'let's cut loose here and have a cut' and until the sending off, we were coming right back into the game.

"Who knows what would have happened? But that decision turns the whole thing. They have a spare man and the chance of a goal ... we probably needed a goal but who's to say we wouldn't have got it with a three-man full-forward line? That's ruled out when a fella is sent off for very little, to say the least."

From there, Dublin's 14 men didn't look ever like threatening the goal they needed to fully bridge the chasm and John Mullane's second point followed by one from substitute Eoin Kelly and a Maurice Shanahan free ended the blue momentum.

For Waterford, the last two weeks have been quite a renaissance. Victory against Galway and Dublin dragged them out of the perils of the bottom two placings and quietened the loud talk of crisis to a faint hush.

"Was it a crisis?," questioned manager Michael Ryan afterwards. "Everybody said it was a crisis but after three rounds of the National League Dublin hadn't won any game, the National League champions haven't won any of their first five games, is that a crisis?

"It was a question of being patient, we've a new management team and this was never going to happen overnight. It takes a while to get a handle on it, to get them playing the way we want, to get a settled team. It's a process."

Dublin's process now involves an unwanted augmentation to their spring and a grapple with Division 1A's most unpredictable team, Galway, driven not only by the consequences of defeat, but also the chance to rebuild some of their reputation after yesterday's Nowlan Park annihilation.

"I just heard the score, obviously I don't know the circumstance," commented Daly. "Kilkenny coming off a defeat can be a tricky enough assignement. But (Galway) beat us by seven points in the first match so we have a point to prove.

"We performed against every other team bar Galway this year so our lads have all the incentive now to go out and prove themselves that they can compete with Galway. We'll look forward to it. That will be a championship-style game."