Your blogger met a media type person who moonlights as a big Dublin hurling fan last week. He got his retaliation in first by declaring his admiration for Anthony Daly, principally his approachability and candidness towards members of the fourth estate. But his head then started to shake, slowly and with an element of resignation at some of his strategic decisions. There is some ammunition to fire at the Clarecastle man. My 'true blue' friend expressed exasperation at the decision to start Dotsie O' Callaghan against Laois. And certainly on the face of it the St. Marks man appeared nowhere near 100% fit. But in defence of Daly, with David Treacy also marked absent, he perhaps felt he had to take a chance. Misgivings could also be expressed towards the Dublin manager's almost knee jerk ability to find himself deploying a two man full forward line. Supporters are entitled to criticise their steward, and no manager should find himself above reproach. The way the Metropolitian's forward line was chopped and changed willy nilly,and skittishishly in the All-Ireland Quarter Final last July would have been familiar to Clare supporters and indicated an achilles heel in Daly's thinking. But one needs to take the rough with the smooth. When Dublin met the same opposition in the championship only five years ago just two of last Sunday weeks starting xv- Gary Maguire and Stephen Hiney- took the field. So every now and again Dublin supporters need to reflect that their charges have had a 'year zero' in recent times. A few summers on from that new dawn Dublin scored 25 points in high summer whilst only shooting a handful of wides. The positives are apparent if one isn't spooked by the looming shadow of the big bad feline awaiting in Croke Park on Sunday. Good accurate shooting from long distance and acute angles is one of the indescribable joys of hurling, but one that often curiously takes a back seat to personality, tactics, athleticism and machismo. Teams, especially developing ones, are often denigrated and stereotyped for profligate score-taking, but not given commensurate praise when they shoot the lights out. Galway's extraordinary accuracy, when notching their second wide in injury time, in an All-Ireland quarter final three years ago, deserved to be focused on for ascetic reasons alone. Both Liam Rushe and Peter Kelly contributed handsomely to the exemplary shooting but also displayed that they are terrifically built Rolls-Royce athletes. Another boon was signs of a return to form of corner-back Oisin Gough. On the debit side the Laois mid-field pucked plenty of ball despite the score-taking of their Dublin opposite numbers. It still occurs that playing Alan McCrabbe at corner forward rather than i lar na pairce doesn't favour the Craobh Chiarain man: However it could take at least a return to fitness of O'Callaghan and Tracey to rectify that issue. The exit of Ronan Fallon from the panel also precludes the possibility that, should Fallon return to form, Dublin might have a natural stand-up centre back later in the summer. Daly's players may also not have been fully tuned in, as the fact that with 14 men Laois were still able to pull off short puck outs indicated.
In defence of Dublin, as Cyril Farrell related the other day, Laois may be better than people think. The frustrating statistic for the O'Moore county was that their premier forward ( who the Premier County would love to have ) Willie Hyland had pretty much as many wides as the whole Dublin team. Hyland still showcased his talents by scoring three from play, but he and Zane Keenan were guilty of over exuberant shooting too hastily from all manner of angles. Brian Campion may have been slightly unlucky to have got the line: But on the other hand his first yellow card was for a foolish tackle on the sideline, and he didn't consequently take appropriate care when lunging for his second. Otherwise the Laois defence, despite the scoreline, coped admirably. John A. Delaney is a corner back par excellence, Michael McEvoy continued the qualities he has evinced for several years, whilst some more prominent hurling counties would kill for a natural centre back like Matthew Whelan. But ultimately these are only hunches. Maybe the relative revivals of both counties will be put in perspective as the summer goes on.