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Loss of Brady is a huge blow to Daly's plans for Blue revival

IT has been a traumatic year for the Dublin hurlers, and the closed season hasn't exactly been a bundle of laughs either.

Firstly Anthony Daly lost his fitness and conditioning coach (Martin Kennedy) to the Dublin footballers. Now one of his defensive lynchpins has taken the same leap of faith.

This column isn't inclined to play the 'blame game' in such dual dilemmas, but there's no mistaking the big loser here. Dublin hurling.

You certainly can't blame Tomás Brady, a powerful athlete gifted in two codes and now choosing one over the other because, well, two don't mix at the highest level. Besides, while the Na Fianna man is far better known for his prowess with the stick, he has long been talked about in Dublin football circles as one that 'got away'.

You can hardly blame Anthony Daly, who has never made a secret of his admiration for the player.

Jim Gavin? Well, the capital's hurling fraternity may well be inclined to dress up his 'defection' as yet another example of Dublin football fluttering its eyelids at the star-struck hurlers ... think of Shane Ryan, Conal Keaney, David Henry and Ross O'Carroll, who had all played senior inter-county hurling before hooking up with the Dublin footballers. And yet even that argument doesn't hold water.

Ryan was still a young colt when he established himself as a Dublin senior footballer and it was in this code that he established himself as a household name. Keaney may have been the Great White Hope lost to football's embrace but, to his credit, he tried juggling both in 2004 before realising to do so was an impossible dream. When Henry retired last year, all the plaudits were for his achievements as a Sky Blue footballer. True, the elder O'Carroll was seen as a major loss when he decamped from the hurlers a few years back ... but after an ill-fated, injury-ruined attempt to prove his credentials as an inter-county footballer, he was welcomed back by the hurlers with open arms.

Moreover, O'Carroll aside, Dublin's 'dual carriageway' has often been a two-way street. Keaney eventually returned to his first love, with some standout results in a comeback season cruelly cut short by his motorcycle mishap. In doing so he was following the earlier lead of Ryan, albeit the Dublin hurling fraternity will doubtless rue the loss of his 'best years' to football.

However, all such arguments cannot override the fundamental point that when it comes to amateur sport, every contract-free player is entitled to make a choice if he's lucky enough to have two managers craving his services.

This week's decision does throw open several points of conjecture, mind you. On face value, it's a worrying augury for the Dublin hurlers that one of the team pillars would depart at a time when the squad is seeking to bounce back from the travails of 2012 -- especially coming in the wake of fitness coach Kennedy's switch to the footballers.

Obviously, as his cruciate rehab continued last spring, Brady was unable to impact on Dublin's eventual relegation from Division 1A while he still wasn't the 'Tomás of old' during their all-too-abbreviated summer campaign. But Daly would have foreseen a bigger and more sustained role for the player next season. Not any longer.

Can he have such an impact with the footballers? That imponderable cannot be answered in weeks (perhaps not even in months) and Brady deserves plenty of patience from the public as he attempts this difficult transition.

It's a big ask for a player in his mid-twenties whose primary focus since the mid-noughties has been hurling ... but he has never been one to shirk a challenge and we don't see that changing now.