| 8.2°C Dublin

Daly's dubs can make it a day to remember

THE last time Dublin got to a hurling league final, two lads by the name of Daly did a lot to destroy their chances.

This time, a lad by the name of Daly can do a lot to increase their chances. There's a connection, of course. Anthony Daly's uncles Haulie -- who captained the Clare team -- and his brother John were two of the main men on the successful 1946 squad which won the league final in a replay.

So, how ironic would it be if their nephew now plotted a Dublin success?

Actually, I think it's going to happen. It might seem daft to predict a Dublin win over one of hurling's greatest powers, who have an immense record in big finals. Clearly, the bookies think it's a done deal for Kilkenny, but I have my suspicions that this will be one for the outsiders.

Why so? Dublin have looked that bit better conditioned than their rivals so far this year, probably because they are. It was crucial for them to have a really good league after the unexpected championship exit against Antrim last year, so they had to put in a lot of early-season work to make sure they picked up points in a very competitive environment.

They tuned into the demands of the campaign very early on and never switched off. They lost just one game -- unluckily it must be said -- and generally performed like a side with a clear view of where they wanted to go and how they planned to get there.

One of the key factors in that was Daly's decision to stay on this year. Sceptics claimed that after the big defeat by Kilkenny in Leinster, followed by the disappointment against Antrim in the qualifiers, the Dublin project had stalled under Daly.

That was never the case. Once he decided to continue, there was every chance that Dublin would get better this year.

And when he got Conal Keaney and Ryan O'Dwyer in from Dublin football and Tipperary respectively, it was like a soccer manager getting two fine talents on a free transfer.

Both have added considerably to Dublin's attacking potency.

Keaney switched back on to the demands of top-class hurling in his first game, but then he plays with Ballyboden-St Enda's, one of the top clubs in the game, so his touch had never left him.

O'Dwyer has thrived in being a regular first-choice selection, a status he hadn't enjoyed in Tipperary.

For the first time in years, Dublin have real depth in their panel. There were times in the past when their top 15 were good enough, but once they dipped below that, they struggled.

You just can't get away with that in the modern game, if indeed you ever could.

Now, Dublin have the strength in depth to match the best; they're on a roll after putting together their best league campaign for nearly half a century and they're probably that bit ahead of Kilkenny on the fitness front.

Daly has them playing to the image and likeness of the Clare team he captained for years, so provided they react positively to being in a final, they could well make it a day to remember for Dublin hurling.

However, to do so, they will need to avoid conceding goals as they did against Kilkenny earlier in the month.

As it transpired, Dublin maintained their shape and the necessary workrate to compensate for that, but they can't afford to waste periods of dominance by giving away goals which wipe out an awful lot of good work in a few minutes.

We all know just how expert Kilkenny are when it comes to throttling teams who make mistakes, and losing last year's All-Ireland final won't have changed that.

Kilkenny will again be major influences in the All-Ireland race, especially if they get most of their injured players back, but for now, Dublin may just have the edge.

Brian Cody has always set out his store on winning every game and not pretending it doesn't matter when Kilkenny are beaten, but it won't make any real difference to their championship prospects if they lose tomorrow.

He has used a lot of players this spring, much of which was brought about by a lengthy injury list, but come June, his real ambition will be to have as many as possible of his top squad fit and ready for action. It's from then on that the real Kilkenny will be judged.

League set-up must be changed

DONEGAL and Laois contested the Division 2 final last Sunday, knowing that both were being promoted anyway.

Clare and Limerick contest a Division 2 final this evening, knowing that only the winners go up.

The difference? It's a football v hurling thing. Laois lost to Donegal, but are deemed good enough for Division 1. However, this evening's losers will be staying in Division 2.

I don't understand that. Hurling needs to have as many top counties as possible in the top Division, but the current league set-up doesn't facilitate that.

If Clare lose, they will be in Division 2 for a third successive season next year, yet if they were footballers they would have gone up last year. Two groups of six is the best format in hurling.

That way, the top 12 teams are playing against each other every year. Teams towards the lower end of the 12 get to test themselves against the bigger boys, which can only be good for them.

As for this evening's final, it all seems set up for Limerick, who beat everybody in Division 2 since February, including Clare.

However, this Banner squad is much more suited to top of the ground hurling -- which they will get this evening -- rather than digging through the sticky surface which applied when they played Limerick in February.

I wouldn't be in the slightest bit surprised to see Clare win, leaving Limerick stuck in Division 2 for another year. That is, of course, unless common sense applies and the League is re-designed.



First Greece, then Ireland, then Portugal. First Cavan, then X, then Y?

Cavan's departure from the senior hurling landscape is bad for hurling business and, as with our friends (or enemies?) in European financial affairs, could lead to contagion.

How many other counties will follow Cavan and decide to opt out of senior competition?

It's a serious matter when a county announces that it will no longer field a senior hurling team.

No doubt, Cavan have their reasons, but it's up to the GAA authorities to intervene so that whatever needs to be done must be done to ensure it's a short absence. Otherwise, others may avail of a similar opt-out clause, if only to cut costs.

Irish Independent