CHANCE blown or point proved? Dublin came within seconds of engineering the hurling shock of this or any other year in Portlaoise yesterday but are adamant they can finish the job next Saturday when they renew acquaintances with All-Ireland champions, Kilkenny after a draw that almost blew the entire summer wide open.
"I think we've a great chance," insisted Anthony Daly after his team had produced perhaps the best display of his five-year reign as Dublin manager, just inches from their most significant victory, only for TJ Reid to send the match to a replay back in O'Moore Park next Saturday night (7.0) in the last meaningful moment of the match.
And the Dublin boss was adamant that despite Kilkenny's daunting record in replays (they haven't lost one since 1985), his team would not play the underdog role. "We're right there," Daly insisted. "I think we proved a good bit to ourselves today. People were seriously doubting us and the boys are going away very disappointed, so there is no one clapping anyone on the back."
As Joey Boland struck a final free to put Dublin 0-17 to 1-13 ahead, achingly near a first Championship win over Kilkenny since 1942, one minute and 25 seconds had elapsed of the two minutes injury-time. They were that close.
"I felt a big performance coming out of the boys," Daly reflected after a match that nobody had given Dublin even a whiff of winning.
"Unfortunately, the last few seconds, we coughed up an equaliser. But, when we were level with a minute or two to go, we'd probably have taken a draw too.
"That's the way it goes but I'm delighted, proud of the boys."
Playing with the benefits of a gusty breeze in O'Moore Park, Dublin shot 10 wides in the first half but went in level, a potentially perilous position against Kilkenny but a second period performance of fairly epic character almost put them into the Leinster final.
"We'd be very disappointed with the way we hurled in the first half," Daly admitted. "We coughed up a lot of handy possession, and we were a bit silly with missed chances – a goal chance early on and a couple of things.
"But we just felt at half-time it wasn't over; that we were extremely fit and if we could push the boat out, we could hang in there. There'd be fellas telling you it's a six-point wind, a seven-point wind. But winds never win anything."
Thereafter, the economy of their attack was admirable, Dublin arrowing almost every ball into Dotsy O'Callaghan's corner before a similarly effective impact from fellow sub Mark Schutte bolstered their attacking arsenal.
In fact, a highly productive use of the Daly bench contributed hugely to putting Dublin on the precipice of glory.
"In fairness, Mark (Schutte) again – savage. Shane Durkin – savage. Dotsy (O'Callaghan) took it right on when he came on. We haven't had the injuries this year so we have a bit of a squad."
The Kilkenny goal, almost inevitably, arrived soon after half-time but even that didn't perturb Dublin's determination.
And despite all Kilkenny's huff and puff (and a tour de force from Walter Walsh, who scored 1-4) Dublin resisted in the most staunch terms, refusing blankly to be beaten.
They went two points down with a little more than 10 minutes to play but when Kilkenny looked set to kick on, Peter Kelly, Liam Rushe and Paul Schutte all manufactured moments of heroism to give Dublin their shot at victory. But they had to settle for a second cut at hurling's aristocracy, their fourth match in successive weeks.
"I'm a bit hoarse from three weeks in a row, but I'll have to get a bit of honey or something," joked Daly afterwards. "Look, I thought we had it, I suppose, but they went up and got a good equaliser, so we live to fight again next Saturday night," he added. "We'll be ready for it."
His job now, though, is to figure out whether there is, in fact, a second way to skin a cat.