Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A tale of two cities

The return of winter came a couple of days too late. Metaphorically the Dublin hurling community huddled in Donnycarney on Sunday, shivering in the apparent malaise. The chat rooms since have wallowed in the depression, turning their lonely eyes to the injury- afflicted Ronan Fallon, or writing the playing epitaph of former hero Dotsie O' Callaghan. So perhaps time for a little perspective. If six or seven years ago Dublin stood toe to competitive toe with all the traditional powers, week-in week-out, the majority of supporters would have hailed hosanna on Easter week. Putting a positive spin on it, they now have a team with a paltry amount of passengers, if any. John McCaffrey has had a progressive spring. Joey Boland continues to fill out physically. One pity is that their contemporary, Ross O' Carroll has been lost to the big ball game. The return to hurling of Shane Ryan, and the Hamlet like indecisiveness of Conal Keaney might have garnered more pre-season headlines; but this was due more to the headlines capital footballers can attain, rather than what they could bring to the hurling table in comparison to O'Carroll. ( and his younger brother Ross, a fine U-21 centre back could have been a handy squad member ) The Kilmacud Crokes man may have rounded out a tasty starting forward sextet, along with Liam Rushe, Peter Kelly, David Tracey, Alan McCrabbe and O' Callaghan. He may also, if he had played against Cork, have managed to avoid the long walk to the bench, which all bar McCrabbe were subjected to. McCrabbe may have validated his manager's judgement with his spectacular late goal. But he was, if anything, even more out of sorts than his substituted team-mates. But five changes was more than enough, as Anthony Daly showed off his penchant, also signposted in last years All-Ireland quarter- final, for a somewhat skittish helming of a forward line. Of the replacements only Paul Ryan ( who was unavailable last season ) looked of a calibre to be an improvement to the off-colour regulars. But, as previously stated, it is enough of an achievement that Dublin now have nearly a XV of proven championship standard. The next step, in order to be competitive in an All-Ireland semi final say, would be for the likes of Tomas Brady, Rushe or Tracey to become amongst the leading players in the country in their positions.

On the final whistle a somewhat rueful looking Anthony Daly greeted his seemingly unruffled opposite number Denis Walsh. The Cork managers insouciance was to some degree apt considering things came slightly easier to his team on the day. This was mostly due to Pat Horgan's unflappable eye for a score, with Dublin shooting 18 wides. Walsh will hope now that the Glen Rovers man can carry this form into the summer, as he showed a frailty in terms of winning his own ball in '09. The evidence in Parnell Park wasn't supportive of Cork's incipient 'twin towers' strategy, albeit that, Aisake O'Halpin's sidekick, Michael Cussen looks like a skillful fledgling in a beanpole'sbody. The league success heretofore may lead Cork fans to believe that the gap to the other traditional powers can be bridged. 1-9 looks very solid if the half-back line and midfield are returning once more to the well. ( Tom Kenny's bucket did, in fairness, runneth over against Dublin ) And one presumes the manager won't forget Cathal Naughton's attributes for the second summer in a row. But there are still four words that would instill terror in any Cork supporter: Injury to Ben O' Connor.

No comments: