Whatever about young dual stars such as Ciaran Kilkenny and Cormack Costello opting for the big ball, the decision by one of his most established and seasoned players, defender Tomas Brady, to turn his back on hurling this year came as a major blow to Dublin manager Anthony Daly.
“Yeah, I got a bit of shock when Tomas rang me. I just didn’t see it coming. I knew with the younger lads it’d be a battle. The big thing with younger lads when they’re out of minor is the first competition of significance for the year is the U-21 football All-Ireland coming straight down your throat. There’s a fierce temptation.
“In fairness, we have Glenn Whelan on both panels at the moment and Dessie Farrell has been very cooperative that way, we’ve allowed him to do a night with each and they’ve been happy enough to do that as well. They’re playing tonight and I wish him the best of luck in that.
“Tomas had come back from a long injury with the cruciate and a shoulder injury before that. I thought he was just getting back to his best form down in Ennis last year (championship loss to Clare, disappointing end of season for Dublin). By then he was one of our better men and it was a blow at the time but I’m delighted with the panel.”
While Daly will be cutting his panel this week, the door hasn’t necessarily closed on Brady, however, nor on anyone else.
“It’s hypothetical, completely, you don’t know what the story is. We can only deal with what we are dealing with, that’s all we can do. For five years the panel has been open-ended and if a fella’s not performing he’ll be off the panel. That’s the bottom line. You can’t be carrying around fellas for the sake of it. I wish Tomas the best of luck. He made his decision, I hope it works out for him.”
Regardless of the loss of Brady, of the decision of so many talented dual players to opt for football, Anthony is still happy with those he has left.
“The panel is really strong — I’ll be dropping eight guys this week and it’s not going to be easy because they’ve put in a great effort. Stephen Hiney (returning from injury) played his first full match against the U21s last Sunday. Mossy O’Brien played his first full match after a kind of a serious enough illness — they’re back. Ryan O’Dwyer, Martin Quilty are making great progress. There’s great competition there and it’ll be damn hard to pick a team for the weekend and that’s what you want.”
That game at the weekend is Dublin’s opening game of the Allianz Hurling League, in division 1B under lights in Parnell Park, against Offaly. Nothing easy there for a team that so disappointed last season — nothing less than a win will satisfy even the most loyal supporter.
“I respect who we’re playing, starting with Offaly. There’s been nothing between us, there’s always that bit of an edge. They have been very difficult to beat.”
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