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'Nine points? We are better than that'

THERE are days when talking to Anthony Daly after a match can leave you bounding with enthusiasm, brimful of colourful insights to pour over whichever battle has just been fought, regardless of the result.

Shuffling up the corridor under the main stand in O'Moore Park on Saturday evening, we, the great unwashed of the GAA media, looked like a congregation of parishioners queuing somberly to shake hands with the bereaved.

Daly, propped up against the wall outside the Dublin dressing room, cut a slightly dazed and equally bemused figure.

Kilkenny had unleashed a performance which should be filed for future examination under 'shock and awe'.

Nothing, as the Clareman pointed out, particularly surprising about that. But his mood reflected a Dublin performance which was just awful.

"There was no indication that our hurling would be that poor at training," he offered, trying to make sense of it all.

"I know Laois weren't good in the first round but we could put moves together, we could pick the ball up first time. Out there we looked like we couldn't rise the ball. The warm-up looked very good. Fellas' first touches looked great ... I don't know."

He continued: "We didn't even focus on a result today. We focused on a performance which is, I suppose, what all the experts will tell you is what you need to do to get the best out of yourselves.

"That's the most disappointing thing, that we didn't perform at all."

Hurling enthusiasts who long for a new narrative to interrupt Kilkenny's constant chronicle of brilliance will be wondering now whether the shop door has been closed more tightly than ever.

In two consecutive swift and brutal slayings, the Cats have wiped both Cork and Dublin, widely seen as the most likely pairing to penetrate the Kilkenny/Tipp duopoly of recent times, with awesome ease and ruthless efficiency.

"This reputation has gone so big now teams are struggling to cope with the reputation," Daly mused before double-backing: "I don't know if that's exactly the answer either. It's hard to have answers at this point in time. We are just so disappointed with our own performance.

"I can take being beaten and all that, and you'll have more bad days than good days - unless you are from Kilkenny - in this game during my lifetime.

"But when you freeze ... simple hand passes, three yards away and a loose man and we couldn't get the ball to them or when we did, they dropped it out of their hands. It's hard to explain that because that's not the indications they'd been giving off in training."


What will fill Daly's thoughts most in these next two vital weeks is the question of whether Kilkenny forced Dublin into such a malaise or if it was self-contained.

"I wouldn't take it off them, honestly," he insisted. "I admire their players but I don't see why you wouldn't have a real cut at them.

"Those are the guys that are held up there as the greatest players that have ever played in lots of ways and wouldn't you love then to be going out on one of those? You've nothing to lose.

"But somewhere along the way today we seemed to lose it. It was as if we showed too much respect altogether. But again, that doesn't explain how poor our hurling was."

Kilkenny's, meanwhile, was truly brilliant.

Typically there was something cruel about their first goal, a sumptuous move which crystalised their intelligence, movement, ambition, selflessness and efficiency in possession.

Coming as it did just after Conal Keaney had limped off, it gave new meaning to the old American saying: 'just because your wife dies, it doesn't mean your house can't burn down too'.

And from there on in, Dublin's world collapsed in around them in a haze of stripy brilliance.

"If you lose by that much on the scoreline and say that's the best we are," said Daly, trailing off, " ... but I think we're better than that. We don't have the time, we have two weeks," he added about the daunting prospect of picking up, and dusting down his Dubs for the qualifiers.

"The only thing what would console me - it's hard to be consoled now by all indications - we had a challenge match against Cork last week where we scored 1-26.

"What did we score tonight? Nine points? Conditions and all allowed for, we are better than that. So hopefully if we did come with a performance the next day we would put a bit of respect back in the Dublin hurling jersey and that's what you'd be hoping for."