Daly and Davy are two of a kind -- but banner hold edge
WHEN Davy Fitzgerald and Anthony Daly were providing so much energy to the Clare generator during the Banner's glory days in the 1990s, they would never have envisaged that many years later Cusack Park, Ennis, would be the scene of a very public showdown between them.
It's difficult to think of any two men who bring more passion to what they do. They were like that as players and it has transferred to their managerial personalities. Fitzy is that bit more demonstrative on the sideline, wearing his heart on sleeve, as always.
Not that people should be fooled by appearances. Fitzy might look as if he's so involved in the game that he'll join in at any minute, but beneath that busy, restless exterior lurks a shrewd hurling brain. The man thinks hurling all day and night; even while he's sleeping, you suspect that he has set his brain a task that must be completed by the time he wakes up.
Daly isn't a whole lot different in that respect, so you can imagine the many thoughts that were racing through his mind on the night Dublin were filleted by Kilkenny. I know the feeling, having experienced it on quite a few occasions in my days as Galway manager.
You think everything is in place, the signs are good, the mood is right and you can't wait for match day. And then comes the collapse, complete with all its inexplicable dimensions, the vast majority of which you never thought possible.
That's how Daly would have felt after the Leinster semi-final. In fairness to him, he was honest enough to acknowledge his bewilderment in the post-match interviews.
Defeat isn't the worst thing that befalls players or managers. No, the nastiest feeling is when there's a power failure and a team not only loses, but doesn't come anywhere close to playing to their potential, as happened to Dublin against Kilkenny.
Sure, Kilkenny played superbly but that had nothing to do with the high error rate which coursed right through the Dublin team. It's one thing to be beaten by a skilful opponent, but when you fail to even get the basics right on the day it is the ultimate frustration for any sports person.
How do you recover from it? There's no manual on the subject, so the best thing to do is dismiss it completely. Individually and collectively, Dublin are infinitely better than they looked against Kilkenny. They know that and what they must now do if they are to have any chance of rescuing the season is to reconnect with all the enterprise that underpinned their displays last year.
Cusack Park on a championship Saturday evening isn't exactly friendly territory for visiting teams but, on the other hand, it's an ideal venue to make a big statement. If Dublin win, they're back on track and the pain of the Kilkenny defeat will subside to a large degree.
Dublin are marginal favourites with the bookies, but I suspect they might be calling it wrong. I'm basing that on Clare's progress this year, rather than on Dublin's demolition in the Leinster semi-final. I have no doubt that Dublin will be a much more competent force on this occasion but, at the same time, they are playing under a level of pressure which Clare won't experience.
Whatever happens this evening, Clare have made solid progress this year. Fitzy has stamped his mark on the way they play the game and, to a large degree, it's working. Clare will take their running game to Dublin and will be hoping that, with a large home following behind them, they can play on Dublin's insecurities.
I fancy them to use the Cusack Park factor to build a winning platform.
JBM calling time on the old guard
I wonder what John Gardiner and Sean Og O hAilpin made of Jimmy Barry-Murphy's decision to start 20-year-old Christopher Joyce at centre-back in the qualifier against Offaly this evening.
With Eoin Cadogan's football commitments leaving a vacancy at No 6, it would have been easy to switch William Egan from No 7 and recall either Gardiner or O hAilpin but, instead, JBM opted for a rookie. It's not a good sign for the older lads.
Both of them saw plenty of action in the league but were left out for the championship clash with Tipperary and didn't even get a run as subs. And now that a vacancy has arisen, they've been overlooked. It suggests that JBM has the future very much in mind.
That future is likely to extend to a clash with Limerick or Wexford in the next round. Luck hasn't exactly been Offaly's best friend in the draw, sending them to Pairc Ui Chaoimh for a second year in a row.
They are on a retrieval mission after the severe beating they took against Galway in the Leinster semi-final. Many of their players seriously under-performed that day, giving a wrong impression of the overall strength of Offaly hurling. I would expect them to correct that but not to upset the odds.