ANTHONY DALY has denounced some of the criticism of his Dublin team this week as "unwarranted" as they prepare to face down the greatest challenge of their season so far.
Much of the comment on last Saturday night's eight-point win over Wexford in the Leinster SHC quarter-final replay condemned the lack of polish with which Dublin hurled over successive weekends and with Kilkenny to come in Portlaoise this Sunday, Daly's men have been largely disregarded in the Leinster shake-up and branded rank outsiders against Brian Cody's men.
"I think our hurling is good enough," Daly insisted in conversation with The Herald. "I just think we need to throw off the shackles and express that. Our touch in training has been very good under high pressure in our games and in our drills.
"I just think that there is a little bit of nervousness there on the day of the games. The way we performed the first day didn't help that. And if you're reading that, what you see is what you become.
"I think some of it is unwarranted," continued the Clareman. "I know people can only go on what they see, but I think we were just a bit anxious the first day and that's why our touch sometimes wasn't quite there. I think there was a lot of ball that went into the forwards last week that came out fairly uncontested. And if that's the case, it's going to look like you have no plan or no direction. But they were balls to be won, I felt. We got a better return off those balls last Saturday."
Similarly, Dublin's eight-point win attracted plenty of interest for all the wrong reasons, with several unsavoury exchanges highlighted by RTé's flagship highlights programme, The Sunday Game, with a number of other challenges worthy of the sole red card dished out to Wexford defender Andrew Shore.
Daly admits now that he prepped his team for some form of Wexford backlash in Parnell Park last Saturday but in hindsight, reckons that Liam Dunne's men were "wired up...in the wrong way".
"We sort of expected something," he revealed. "We thought Wexford were fairly physical down in Wexford Park. Nothing over-the-top. But we sort of expected that they would expect a backlash from us, so we were very careful to say to the lads: 'the backlash will be from winning the ball. The real tough guy will go to the ball, take his belt and win his free.'
"I think they were more wired up for the replay in the wrong way. That cost them a bit. They pulled a bit wildly at times.
"I often remember Loughnane saying to us: 'hard as hell but no wildness. If you're going to hit, hit hard with the body and hit hard with the shoulder and that kind of thing. Use the physicality you have but don't pull wildly because it's easy for a ref to take action if you pull wild'.
"So we did work on that during the week. That we would keep our heads about us. And a couple of the pulls from Wexford lads were loose, to say the least. They did finish up with 14 and maybe they were lucky to finish up with 14."
In particular, Michael Duignan was damning about a number of incidents stemming from the match in his analysis on The Sunday Game, although Daly himself suggested that the exchanges weren't so apparent on the line.
"In real time, you don't notice as much," he explained. "But when you're sitting down at home with a cup of tea watching The Sunday Game ... we hadn't seen the video. We only got that on Monday night."
Injury-wise, Conal Keaney was Dublin's only doubt but an MRI scan on a chest injury yesterday came back clear so he's fit to start.
Daly added that "Ryan O'Dwyer, obviously, is very sore in a few different places. Danny Sutcliffe is very sore in a few different places but everyone got their recovery done on Sunday morning. We did a good long recovery session."
And now that the Ballyboden St Enda's man is fit to play on Sunday, he is likely to be retained in attack after starting the drawn match with Wexford at centre-back.
"As I said to somebody last week, I would love to have a few Conal Keaneys," Daly insisted. "Conal did do his job very well up front. He just brings you a whole pile of physicality up front that is hard to buy.
"And for centre-back, I would be very confident that Liam will really step up to the plate on Sunday. I think you will see the real Liam Rushe. The guy that broke Limerick nearly on his own down in the league final."