Now we'll see what Dublin hurling is made of - Carton
The thick fog that descended on the Dublin hurlers over the weekend is only starting to lift but the view ahead isn't pretty.
Both Dublin and Galway knew the consequences of defeat when they met in Tullamore last Saturday night.
But as the Tribesmen charge on to a date with high-flying Laois for a spot in the Leinster final, Dublin head for the Qualifiers and all the uncertainty that brings. They won't know their opposition for another fortnight but it's high-wire stuff now.
The back door is already a snake pit populated by three of the sides that made the All-Ireland semi-finals back in 2013.
The most likely scenario is that Dublin will face Munster opposition in a game where both sides will be fighting for their lives.
This wasn't the plan when Ger Cunningham took over as manager ahead of this year. Replacing Anthony Daly, who had developed a strong bond with this panel of players, was always going to be difficult but the task has just become a lot more arduous.
"We know some of the Munster teams and the third one's going to be Limerick or Tipp," Cunningham said at the launch of Toyota's Summer Showtime which runs from June 10-13.
"It's as tough as you're going to get. It's a direction we hadn't planned on going. We hoped to get to a Leinster final and try and win that and go through the front door. But we are where we are and we have to accept that's the way it's going to be."
Saturday night capped a difficult week for Dublin hurling after the U-21s were dumped out of Leinster in the most heartbreaking fashion by Kilkenny.
Cunningham revealed that there was little in the way of discourse after their hammering last Saturday night and that an explanation for such a dramatic collapse still eluded everyone connected to the squad.
"I didn't see (that performance coming)," he admitted.
"I was probably a bit disappointed with our display in Croke Park. I felt we could have played a bit better.
"You do need to take a step up from league to championship.
"We stepped it up a bit but not as much as we needed to and last week we weren't able to match Galway's intensity.
"They were extremely sharp and had a hunger for the ball.
"At different stages all through the match there were two or three Galway fellas to one Dublin fella. I think it helps if you get a start and take-off.
"You're eight or nine points up after 10 minutes; it allows you that extra bit of freedom."
Cunningham was due to meet with his management team last night to start the post mortem and begin the rebuilding process.
There are league matches scheduled in the county this weekend after which they'll look to regroup for what lies ahead.
There was no blame to be apportioned, he said. Instead the responsibility would be shared evenly across the whole squad and management.
"You would hope that there will be a reaction from us as a group.
"Lads need to react themselves on how they performed and what they did and what they didn't do and look as to why.
"And we'll look from our point of view to see how to help them achieve their potential.
"It's a collective thing from Saturday, there is no blame on any one particular group, it's all of us together.
"We have to regroup and get the spirit back and get the focus back and get our motivation back and take it forward."
Mikey Carton was still at a loss to explain what went so awry for Dublin.
The O'Tooles clubman is in his 13th season with the senior panel but couldn't figure out what had gone so wrong for Dublin in the six days between the drawn game and last Saturday.
Perhaps the most galling thing for him was the lack of fight.
Even with the aid of the breeze in the second half, they failed to raise a gallop, only plundering their goal at the death.
He's expecting a reaction when they take to the field again in a month's time.
"I suppose we'll see what the team's made of now," Carton reflected.
"We've four weeks to see what Dublin hurling is about so we'll find out now in four weeks' time.
"It was a very tough day out, very disappointing after the first day. To perform like that was very disappointing to be honest.
"The first ten minutes we were blown away with the three goals.
"You can't give three goals away like that to a team like Galway and expect to go on and win championship matches.
"And then we just couldn't get back into it.
"You don't see it coming but you try not to let the heads drop and have some pride in the jersey and fight back. But there wasn't too much fight in us."
With Waterford's dashing display over the weekend, there have been considerable shifts already in the hurling landscape.
On the basis of last weekend, Dublin are way off the pace being set by the rest while All-Ireland champions Kilkenny are yet to show their hand.
All the while, Dublin are facing the very real prospect of being out of the championship in the first week of July.
Still, Carton wasn't for giving up and despite everything, he still insists they are contenders for ultimate honours in September. They can't afford to think any other way.
"Absolutely, definitely," he said, when asked if they were still genuine contenders in the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
"We wouldn't be here if you don't think you can win the All-Ireland. That's obviously the aim. But we have to get over the next round first."
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