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Final result is not everything: O'Shea

ANTHONY DALY arrived in the capital amid a welter of excitement about what this charismatic Clareman could do for the comatose giant that was Dublin hurling.

He departed last night, six years later, after a season of much promise yielding nothing but disappointment.

Yet that should not be the starting point for any appraisal of what 'Dalo' has achieved for small ball in the city - not just in terms of silverware either.

Today, it's cool for a young Dub to be seen ambling the streets with the appendage of a hurl proudly borne. There are many people who can take credit for this, at club and county board level, but your senior county flagship team has arguably the most crucial role of all as a marketing tool for juvenile enrolment.

Nine years ago that flagship team was in a mess, reflected on the scoreboard, in player defections and a mid-season change of management.

By 2008, Tommy Naughton had steadied the ship ... but Dublin remained a mid-to-lower ranking wannabe. Good enough to draw with Wexford but not beat them in a Croke Park replay; good enough to push Cork to five points in the qualifiers.

Fast-forward six years: Dublin have just endured a relatively poor campaign culminating in heavy defeats to Kilkenny and Tipperary ... but they were also comfortable winners over a resurgent Wexford on enemy turf, they were Leinster finalists, All-Ireland quarter-finalists and had earlier preserved their Division 1A status.

All this, and supporters were left utterly deflated. Why? Because expectation levels have soared under the current management. This hasn't occurred in a vacuum. In his maiden campaign, 2009, Daly led Dublin to their first Leinster SHC final in 18 years - and then they only lost by two goals to a Kilkenny team en route to their fourth consecutive All-Ireland.

In 2011, he masterminded a first National League crown in 72 years, walloping an admittedly understrength Kilkenny by 12 points. The manner of its achievement was the swashbuckling antithesis of the old foostering Dublin hurling stereotype and, on radio today, county board chairman Andy Kettle pinpointed Conal Keaney's incredible touchline point that day as his standout memory under Daly.

By our reckoning, though, 2013 was the pinnacle.

Beating Kilkenny in the league is one thing; doing it in a Leinster semi-final replay, when many sceptics have presumed you've blown your best chance, something else. Better still, they finished off the job in style, against Galway a week later, to end a 52-year wait for the Bob O'Keeffe Cup.

Moreover, Dublin reached two All-Ireland semi-finals on his watch and, even in defeat, their performances against Tipperary (2011) and Cork (2013) confirmed a team ready and able to mix it among the top-four.

That said, the biggest curiosity of Daly's reign was the frustrating inability to build on each season of promise. They flatlined in 2010 - cue the calamity of Antrim.


Ditto in 2012, when an abject collapse to Kilkenny in Portlaoise prompted the following memorable admission: "If we gathered up 20 at the Red Cow and came down this morning, it could hardly have been worse." And finally, last July, when they looked bereft of all spark against Kilkenny and Tipp.

Maybe management had grown stale too - understandably, after six years with a group that hasn't changed to any great degree. But that shouldn't detract from all the glorious highs.

Daly had a natural affinity with players who will miss him. The media will miss him too - if only all managers were so approachable and plain-speaking, in good times or bad.

He'll be back somewhere, pretty soon, we're sure. In the meantime, viva la revolution.