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Anthony Daly: It was a real, real chance . . . it haunts me, I have to say, to this day

Anthony Daly: It was a real, real chance . . . it haunts me, I have to say, to this day

Wed, 24th June 2020

Anthony Daly enjoyed six years as Dublin senior hurling manager with the county winning NHL1 and Leinster SHC honours during his tenure.

The top-flight league honours in 2011 was Dublin's first since 1939, the provincial glory bridging a gap back to 1961 while Dublin's upward curve was acknowledged with All Stars for Alan McCrabbe (2009), Gary Maguire and Liam Rushe (2011) and Peter Kelly, Liam Rushe and Danny Sutcliffe (2013).

Daly argues in Wednesday night's 'The Hop Ball' (Episode 8), hosted by Eamon Fennell, in association with AIG, that Mikey Carton was very unlucky not to have been honoured among the All Stars in 2013 also.

Looking back on his six years with the Dubs the two-time All-Ireland winner with his native Clare bounds from story to story in insightful and humorous fashion but admits towards the conclusion of the 53-minute interview that his great memories are "tinged with regret" that Dublin didn't reach and win the All-Ireland SHC final in 2013.

Recalling the early days when he took over in the winter of 2008 Daly said: "The very first training session I took I think it was down in Thomas Davis on the astro and I thought their hurling was just so slow compared to what I'd be expecting at that level and jeez I went through them afterwards. I savaged them, I have to say.

"And I'd say that all went home, we probably brought 40 guys in as you do at the start d'ya know and they went home saying 'this fella is mad. It's going to be hardship' but that would never be my way.

"I was Clare captain for eight seasons but I woulda been always one of the boys .... once fellas are putting it in I think it's crucial you let them have the craic and I wouldn't like to be the dictator either," added 'Dalo'.

"There's a time and place when you are coming up to serious stuff. And they had to learn that as well at the start.

"I just couldn't believe the laxness from what I was used to with Ger Loughnane and my time as Clare manager even and my time as Clare manager. I would've had Brian Lohan, Seánie McMahon, Colin Lynch, Davy Fitzgerald, guys that I'd hurled with but knew the regime we'd gone through and the younger lads picked up on that.

"But when I came to Dublin I couldn't believe the general ... 'oh, who we playing today? Cork is it'?" imitating a stock northside Dublin accent!

"Whereas I'd be like . . . Cork, you'd die roaring to beat them."

The Clarecastle man said he suffered something of an initial "culture shock" when he took over.

"I didn't know what sort of culture I was going into and it was a culture shock but very quickly you knew they were very genuine guys, they were the guys who would do anything.

"And remember when I came in I wasn't coming in taking over a county that was in the Christy Ring or the Joe McDonagh.

"Although they'd (Dublin) suffered an awful defeat two years before to Westmeath, which they still talk about ... but they (Dublin) were beginning to show at underage, colleges . . . the Combined Colleges had won an All-Ireland, the minors had won Leinster, the under-21s had won Leinster so there was a pool of talent.

"But I didn't really know what I'd find and it was a culture shock for me but quickly got over it 'cos I believe as a management (along with Vincent Teehan, Richie Stakelum and Ciarán Hetherton) we set standards and it was great even like that first year involved, Dublin I don't think had beaten . . . , jesus not talking about myself now but, the target was to take down a scalp in Leinster which was Kilkenny, Wexford or Offaly.

"And obviously Kilkenny would've been the most difficult of that, they were in their absolute prime at the time and you have to remember the previous year they had given Waterford that unmerciful beating in the final, peaked that year."

Typical of the man the interview is marked with plenty of colourful tales and humour including the introduction of handing out the 'Dodo t-shirts' to players who had underperformed or were guilty of needless fouling which was highlighted by their video analysis.

The analysis of two NHL games highlighted Conal Keaney as the chief culprit, with the Ballyboden St Enda's legend knocking plenty of fun out of it the following week. 

"It was of its time . . . a bit of craic," he says while also describing Keaney's move back to hurling from football as the biggest instigator in the Dubs going on to win League Division 1 and Leinster Championship honours.

Recounting his first Championship summer in 2009 he adds: "We beat Antrim first and then Wexford down in Nowlan Park, to win that day was massive. Liam Ryan and Kevin Flynn . . . what it meant to Flynner, there were tears in his eyes afterwards. I'll never forget.

"I mean a Clare man involved would've half-expected to beat Wexford at the time but it's that mental barrier you have to get over and the two boys embracing in the dressingroom in Nowlan Park that day said to me 'd'ya know what? This is a huge day really'.

"What it meant to them to be in a Leinster final but straight away I knew I was onto a winner. We were topsy-turvy, we were inconsistent but you know straight away that you had lads who were willing to buy in."

Daly looks back to his first meeting with the Dublin County Board representatives and high ambitions being set for his tenure. 

"When I met with John Costello, Gerry Harrington, Mike Connolly over in Killaloe (Clare) and I said 'what's yer dream?' and they outlined they wanted to be contenders really for an All-Ireland."

Dublin reached All-Ireland semi-finals in 2011 (losing to Tipperary 1-19 to 0-18) and 2013 (losing to Cork 1-24 to 1-19).

The defeat to the Rebels was particularly tough after an epic encounter in front of a crowd of 62,092.

The sides were level on 15 occasions over the entire duel, 10 times in the opening half but Dublin lost Ryan O'Dwyer to a second yellow card in the 51st minute and from the resultant 90-metre free (Anthony Nash) Cork drew level 0-19 to 1-16.

The game was still in the balanced heading into the concluding five minutes when Patrick Horgan's goal settled the issue.

"Still, ya know, afterwards I suppose it's tinged with regret for me that we didn't go all the way.

"I would have felt in '13 that we were probably after travelling the hard yards, the road in Leinster, to beat Kilkenny in a replay was remarkable in loads of ways and to back that up like eight days later by hammering Galway in the Leinster final.

"The final score would suggest a hammering but Galway did put it up to us a few times in the game and brought it back to five points at one stage and you say 'jeez, here we go' and Joe Canning was after getting a goal but then to kick on and win the way did and you are really thinking .... and that's the bit I regret and maybe the landscape now, even though I'd be long gone, the landscape now could be so much different.

"The footballers . . . five in a row, who knows could be six in a row at the end of this year and the hurlers could be looking for a second or third one at this stage ... but we didn't (win All-Ireland).

"Winning Leinster was always the big one for me, the Bob O'Keeffe Cup and we used always touch the picture of the men of '61 when we'd eaten Parnell, beautiful picture of the '61 team, the last team that had won Leinster, upstairs ... the Foleys etc and Noel Drumgoole.

"I'd make them touch the picture and say 'we're going to be there someday'."

It's the regret and the frustration of 2013 that lingers longest for Daly.

"When Johnny McCaffrey went up for the cup, that was magic. But the chance was there . . . you had no Kilkenny, no Tipp, Cork weren't the power they used to be six/seven years earlier. It was a real, real chance . . . it haunts me, I have to say, to this day."

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