Friday 6 December 2019

Football's capital gains leave hurling at a major crossroads

Dublin blueprint must be rewritten if Daly's troops are to make progress, insists Kelleher

Dublin manager Anthony Daly is considering his future at the helm in the wake of his team's championship exit. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Dublin manager Anthony Daly is considering his future at the helm in the wake of his team's championship exit. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's a measure of how far Dublin have come that when a year that ended at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage goes down as a disappointment and defeat to Tipperary in Thurles prompts deep introspection.

Other teams have gone down to Kilkenny and Tipperary in the same championship year and not had a cloud hanging over them like this Dublin side has. But that's how much expectation has changed in the capital and how the county now sees itself.

In recent years, Dublin have forced their way into hurling's upper echelons but last Sunday's result felt like the end of an era. Manager Anthony Daly hinted as much in his post-match interview on Sunday.

Dublin, he said, had won a national league and a Leinster championship and there was only one prize they were interested in now. Whether he will be there to try and bring them to the next level will only become clear in the coming weeks.

Former Dublin manager Humphrey Kelleher doesn't expect to see Daly back in charge in 2015. Even if the Clare man does return, Kelleher expects a raft of changes to a squad that might have emptied themselves for the cause for the last time.

A huge amount of resources, both in terms of manpower and Irish Sports Council finances, have been poured into hurling in the capital.

That helped make the Dubs competitive and added a new dimension to the Leinster Hurling Championship. But for Kelleher, the brief for Dublin hurling has now changed dramatically.

"When we drew up the original plan for hurling in Dublin we simply wanted to get a hurl into the hands of players," Kelleher said.

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"It was about participation levels and that's what was needed at the time. Now that needs to change again. It's about getting those players to a level where they can compete at the highest level and where they can do it better. We need to rewrite the blueprint for success.

"Irrespective of who manages the team, we need to produce better players.


"I would say there are very few what I would call natural hurlers coming through at the minute and we have to change that. Like you saw Seamus Callanan win the ball and shrug off his marker and score points. It was very easy for him.

"Some of the (Dublin) players weren't as effective as they have been," Kelleher added.

"Players made mistakes and were too far off their men.

"You have to ask why that is and look at our whole structure and our coaching. There's only so much a manager can do.

"We need to look at the fundamentals. Their first touch was off and in hurling that's everything.

"It would be interesting to do a study on what percentage of first touch in Dublin is right compared to say Kilkenny.

"I'd say in Kilkenny you are looking at 80-90pc while in Dublin it's maybe only 50-60pc."

Dublin's cause has been seriously hampered in recent times by the decision of some of their brightest young talent to pursue football careers rather than hurling. A quick glance at the 2011 Dublin minor side that reached the All-Ireland hurling final shows a host of familiar names.

Emmet O Conghaile, Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello and Eric Lowndes were dual players that year but all are firmly ensconced in Jim Gavin's football set-up. Another player from that team, Conor McHugh, isn't in Jim Gavin's squad but he didn't line out for the county's U-21 hurlers either.

And while Conal Keaney and David 'Dotsie' O'Callaghan returned to hurling after stints with the footballers, they have lost the likes of full-back Tomas Brady and even former trainer Martin Kennedy as the pull of the GAA's showtime team proved too much to resist.

Rory O'Carroll and Diarmuid Connolly are others who could make an impact on the hurling squad.

However, Kelleher suggested the challenge for the hurling fraternity is to offer a viable alternative for emerging young talent.

"I suppose the point is they have been lured, for want of a better word, by the opportunity and real prospect of winning silverware. And maybe that isn't there to the same extent with the hurlers. But I'd see no reason why some of those players couldn't play hurling for Dublin some day. Conal Keaney went playing football and he came back.

"I think at 16 years old players have to be asked what they want to pursue and then go into the development squads for a good three to four years to prepare them for hurling at the very top level.

"But the bottom line is we have to review our product. We have to make it more appealing for these guys to come and hurl with Dublin."

If Daly leaves, Kelleher fears finding a replacement could be difficult. Taking charge of a squad that has given the county six hard seasons under the charismatic Clare man would leave the new man with big shoes to fill.

However, Kelleher is far from despondent and points out that the prospects are good.

This year the Leinster Colleges juvenile 'A' final was contested by Dublin North and Dublin South amalgamation sides. The club scene is on the rise too with the traditional powers of St Vincent's, O'Tooles and Craobh Chiarain meeting different challenges from emerging sides like St Jude's who currently top the league in Dublin.

"Look, last year we were only a puck of a ball away from being in an All-Ireland final. Whether we would have won it or not is a different thing but that's where we are now and things are certainly at a different level than they were a few years ago or in my time (as manager). I think we just have to look at how we do things. But we'll keep going and keep working at it."


Five 'duals' who have been lost to Dublin hurling

Cormac Costello

Played in the All-Ireland minor hurling finals of 2011 and 2012, but was quickly drafted into the football squad. Might have seen more action last year but for injury, though Costello has made his presence felt with Jim Gavin's side this year and is 7/4 favourite to be named Young Footballer of the Year for 2014.

Ciarán Kilkenny

The most high-profile of Dublin's talented dual stars after his brief stint in the AFL. The Castleknock youngster has stated he still retains a desire to hurl for Dublin, but Gavin is known to be against the idea of a dual player. In any case, a cruciate injury means Kilkenny won't play until next year.

Emmet Ó Conghaile

The Lucan Sarsfields man was one of three youngsters – along with Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey – drafted straight into the senior football team in 2012 by then boss Pat Gilroy when only out of minor. Ó Conghaile has yet to nail down a starting spot but is a regular member of the matchday squad.

Eric Lowndes

Another graduate from Dessie Farrell's 2011 minor side edged in the football final by Tipperary. Lowndes was to the fore as Dublin secured an All-Ireland U-21 football title this year but didn't play for the hurlers.

Tomas Brady

Brady surprisingly switched to the county's footballers last year, having played for Gavin at U-21 level. The Na Fianna man had previously nailed down a starting spot in Anthony Daly's hurling side. He suffered a knee injury that ruled him out for much of last season and is used largely as an impact sub.

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