Cyril Farrell: Dublin show real resolve to reap overdue rewards
THE Dublin we expected, but a year later than Anthony Daly had planned. After last season, I know how close Daly came to walking away but yesterday he earned the rewards for all the hard work he and his players have put into transforming the fortunes of hurling in the capital.
Regardless of how their season goes from here, a first Leinster title since 1961 puts a cap on what will go down as a very progressive era for Dublin under the Clare man.
That they did it the hard way, after replays against Wexford and Kilkenny, makes yesterday all the more satisfying. Twelve months ago, Dublin didn't deliver the championship we expected but this year they got back to basics, simplified their approach, trusted their instinct and reaped the benefits. Simply put, they went back to hurling.
We suspected they had reached extraordinary levels of fitness and that they drove hard into injury-time shows just how fit they are.
More importantly, they showed real resolve. They could have wilted when Galway struck for two quick-fire goals in the second half. Had they let the Tribesmen reel them in at that stage, not many would have complained. Five successive weekends on the go would have been reason enough to fade but they never took a backwards step.
After each Galway goal, Dublin responded immediately with a point to blunt any momentum they might build up. The forwards were hugely impressive. Galway never got to grips with David 'Dotsie' O'Callaghan, who looks back to his best. Paul Ryan is an excellent free-taker but his contribution from open play (2-3) was decisive.
They flourished in the space afforded to them by Conal Keaney and Danny Sutcliffe dropping deep while at centre-forward, Ryan O'Dwyer was very industrious. A haul of 2-25 with 10 different scorers underlines just how good Dublin were. On another day, they could have even bagged a couple of more goals.
They have a much better balance to their side since the drawn game with Wexford. Liam Rushe and Keaney are in their best positions now, playing good hurling. But another boost to Daly is that he now knows his best subs. They used all five and you can't say that Dublin were weakened by any of them
Dublin obviously benefited from their run of games while Galway perhaps paid the price for only playing one competitive fixture since the end of the league.
The Dubs were deserving winners, but Galway only seemed to get to the pace of the game midway through the second half.
While Dublin hurled with confidence, Galway stuck to their game plan throughout rather than varying it when 'Plan A' wasn't working.
They looked a bit leaderless and toothless at times. Joe Canning tried hard up front but he had too much to do.
Anthony Cunningham spotted the problem and changes were made early with three switches by the time the second half started. And there were players who weren't taken off that could have been. Had the rules allowed it, you'd imagine he would have made a few more substitutions.
They'll need more exposure to games to stay in the championship and it will be interesting to see how they fare on the weekend of July 27/28 when they take to the All-Ireland quarter-final.
But it was Dublin's day and a great day for hurling to have an unfamiliar name on a major trophy. The question now is how far can they go? As Leinster champions, they have to be respected but reaching such a milestone often represents a journey in itself for teams.
How they react to that is key but, if they can repeat the intensity and the brand of hurling that we saw yesterday, they shouldn't fear anyone.
Clare outclassed Laois as expected in the weekend's other qualifier. It was a strange type of game with 15 players sharing the scoring responsibility for Clare but having seen Cork stifle their running game in Munster, they got it going here to good effect.
And once that worked, they had the hurlers to punish Laois from a variety of distances and angles. They are a young team so the week-on-week nature of the qualifiers should suit them. Wexford will be a significant step up in class but they'll go in with a renewed sense of confidence.