IT’S A measure of his growing importance to the capital’s flagship hurling team that the first question at yesterday’s AIG Dublin jersey promotion event involved anxious medical updates on the state of Danny Sutcliffe’s broken hand.
Let’s cut to the chase - will he be right for the Leinster SHC semi-final on June 14? “I’m aiming for that, naturally, but I am probably pushing it a bit, to be honest,” he replies, in slightly non-committal fashion.
Reading between the lines, however, you could sense a steely determination that Sutcliffe will get himself right for the opening night - be it against Wexford, Laois or Antrim - come what may.
Lesson number two from yesterday’s Parnell Park launch: the St Jude’s man may be a current All Star but that exalted status hasn’t bestowed even a hint of arrogance.
By common consent, Sutcliffe’s finest hour of an historic 2013 summer came in eventual All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Cork. Not that you’d have guessed from the following answer, in response to a query about what lessons Dublin learned from that gut-wrenching what if?’ setback.
“People say I had a good game and that. But you know yourself, you analyse the clips and I kind of thought I went a bit hiding towards the end,” he counters.
“I didn’t get enough ball when they needed me, when they really needed me, when the backs were to the wall. Personally, that’s something I need to do this summer. That lads can turn to me and, you know, if we’re in a tight spot I should be there ... if I’m (in the team) at all, that’s the thing. But, yeah, we were a man down and I didn’t do as much as I could.”
Speaking of men down, he’s adamant that the contentious double-yellow dismissal of Ryan O’Dwyer (pictured) was not the winning and losing of that game. “There was no hard luck story about it - they beat us,” he maintains. “It was the 65th minute that Pat Horgan got the (Cork) goal. So we could have went on (and won). It was nothing to do with the red card ... even my Mam, when I came home I told her to stop it and to leave it at that.
“We lost; it was our own fault. Since you’re 10 or 12, you pull a man out in training at club level (when) you’re down a man. So you train for it.”
A new season brought a fitful performance graph, propelling Dublin into a relegation play-off against Waterford. Sutcliffe played a pivotal role in their ultimate top-flight survival, courtesy of a two-goal salvo in Walsh Park. Earlier, he’d taken Tommy Walsh on a tour of Parnell Park during a 1-5 Man of the Match performance against Kilkenny.
Yet immediately after that rousing victory, Sutcliffe lamented Dublin’s propensity for “hot and cold” oscillations. Asked if they’ve now addressed that inconsistency, he says: “That frustration probably came through on a personal level. I wasn’t being as consistent as I’d like myself.
“In Galway I was really disappointed with myself ... I certainly won’t forget that one for a long time. That was a reminder that a sudden trip in concentration can lead to a catastrophe like that, so it’s just important to keep tuned in ... you can only admire what the footballers do. That is the level we are trying to get - week in, week out.”
We’ll end where we started, the fractured metacarpal suffered on recent club SHC duty for Jude’s against Crumlin.
“My own coach took me out in a club game. I live in Crumlin and I was playing against Crumlin, so it was obviously going to happen - but he denies it!” he says.
“I’m hoping to get back in contention a couple of weeks beforehand, but most of the work then will be done in the ball alley, trying to get sharp again. The sooner I get the hurl in the hand, obviously the better. But either way, there’s going to be 15 picked on the Thursday beforehand that will be good enough to do the job. Whether I’m in there or not doesn’t really matter.”
Dublin fans might beg to differ.