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Carton: We have grown

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Conal Keaney, Dublin, in action against Cian Dillon, Clare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Conal Keaney, Dublin, in action against Cian Dillon, Clare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Conal Keaney, Dublin, in action against Cian Dillon, Clare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

A COUPLE of years ago, Anthony Daly began to publicly insist that his players had ownership of their own destiny.

They were, the Clareman felt, big enough and smart enough to, as he phrased it, "drive this thing on now themselves".

So when Dublin went down to Galway and got trashed in Salthill, it was no surprise when Daly then chose so many of those chronic underperformers again a week later when a loss to Clare would have attracted unwanted, potentially destabilising, pressure so early in a season.

"Yeah, well I'd say if it (the Galway collapse) happened again, it (dropping players) would have happened," reckons Mikey Carton.

"But we knew we weren't as bad as we played against Galway, we showed that last Sunday week, thank God, against Clare.

"We were dismal against Galway, just didn't show up and you can't do that in this league because there's such fantastic teams in it and they punished us badly. The Clare game couldn't have come quick enough for us to be honest.

"The management shouldn't have to push players," he adds. "At this stage ... like, we see ourselves as professionals. The players push each other and, of course, with a helping hand from Anthony and a few words."

So a week later, Daly's 'big guns' (as he called them a week previously whilst imploring for a response) got right on top of Clare in Parnell Park and enjoyed a win as valuable for the fact that it served as proof to Dublin themselves that such a performance was within their capabilities, as it was for the two league points.

And the only people, it seems, with half an interest in hurling that don't immediately harp back to the darker corners of 2012 when Dublin show signs of regression, is the Dublin hurlers themselves.

TOUGHER

"Ah, I think as a team we've been together a long, long time and mentally we're a lot tougher than we have been," Carton asserts.

"There was a puck of a ball in a lot of those games in 2012. Obviously it was very bad to be relegated but I don't think that would happen again anymore. As I've said, we've grown as a team. I can't see that happening this year."

Still, pessimism has never been much of a hobby for Carton who, along with Liam Rushe and Shane Durkin, wiped Clare at source across a hugely productive Dublin half-back line in Donnycarney last time out.

And if 2013 can serve as any real purpose in the context of 2014, it's that Daly nailed a few players to some key positions.

It seems odd now to recall that when Dublin started their ultimately successful Leinster SHC with a rough draw in Wexford Park, Conal Keaney started centre-back and Rushe, wing-back and heading – it seemed – for another spell in the forwards.

Joey Boland, meanwhile, was on unfamiliar terrain on Wexford's 45.

"I think we're all big enough and manly enough to play where we're put, you know," says Carton, whose long-range point that night made sure Dublin got away with their provincial prospects still intact, unhealthy though they then seemed.

"I'd never give an excuse if put in a position, if I didn't play well, that I prefer wing-back. As a hurler and an inter-county hurler, I think you should be able to play in any position. But obviously if a team is stable, it's probably easier in the long run."

Win in Waterford on Sunday and Dublin can size up Kilkenny and Tipperary knowing the perils of losing to one or the other probably won't include relegation.

"Definitely we don't want to go down there," says Carton, who this time last year, was preparing for a trip to Casement Park before a home clash with Carlow.

"Obviously you want to get that winning mentality as well, because winning breeds winning. We want to keep winning.

"We haven't got a great track record in Waterford," he adds.

"I thought Waterford should have beaten Tipp the first day and they had a great performance against Galway the last day so they're flying.

"They are a tough, tough team but we need to get the points on the board so I'm really looking forward to a great game of hurling next weekend."


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