Hurling hands: No. 2 Anthony Daly - 'Sparrow broke my thumb the week I made Clare debut'

In the second of a Championship series, hurlers chat about their hands the injuries sustained in the service of club and county. This week, All-Ireland winning Clare captain Anthony Daly talks to Michael Moynihan.

I have tiny hands, that’s the first thing. My daughters would nearly have bigger hands than me. But as Sparrow (O’Loughlin) used to say, it’s all about the wrists.

Was I conscious of the size of my hands? No, because there was nothing, really, I could have done about it. From a young age, I had small hands so I learned to accept that. The only time it’d hit you would be shaking hands with people.

I remember one time being at a rugby international, not that I’d be a rugby fan, but Sparrow got tickets so we headed off and had a great time at it. We were in a pub that evening and we met the late, great, Moss Keane.

When I shook his hand, I felt it must be like shaking hands with a three-year-old — for him. The size of his hands, my God! But in a hurling sense, I was never conscious of it.

The year I made my debut for Clare I knew I was on the team the Tuesday night before the match, and we played backs and forwards that evening. I was marking Sparrow the same evening and if you were beating him to the ball then, like any corner-forward, he could be peevish enough.

I beat him to the first three balls and was ahead of him for the fourth and he let fly. Reefed my left thumb. Four stitches, broken bone in it: the Tuesday before my senior debut for Clare.

The conversation wasn’t too good on the way home after training, five of us in the car, me all bandaged up and blood seeping out through the bandage.

“Thanks for that,” I said. And Sparrow said, “Ah you’ll be grand, it’s not the piano you’re playing.” I wasn’t going to miss that match, though, and they froze the thumb before the game with an injection. If there was the same drug testing that time as there is now I might have been in trouble, but it worked, though after the jab I could hardly feel anything in my left hand — my catching hand.

I broke all my fingers over the years bar the little one, maybe. My index fingers are all marked by getting stitches and so on. You’d see some lads’ hands and there are fingers going in all directions, so I was lucky enough in that way, they’re not all over the place.

Sean McKenna in Scariff used to make my hurleys and I’d get seven or eight at the start of every year. He wasn’t making them for everyone by that time, but he’d make them for me and they were beautiful. They had a slightly bigger bas than the usual, but there was nothing specific I needed on them to suit my hands or anything.

In terms of skills and so on, Bubbles (O’Dwyer) is outstanding. Patrick Horgan... the point he got against Tipp out on the wing a couple of weeks ago, over his shoulder on the run — Jackie Tyrrell was with me at that game and said ‘trademark Hoggy’. I said, ‘that’s some statement, a fella’s trademark score is one of the best scores I ever saw in my life’.

From my time, Tommy Dunne of Tipp had great hands. Johnny Dooley of Offaly was a guy I marked a bit and wasn’t the quickest sprint-wise, but by God could he make it talk. He’d lean into you, lean back off you, and bang, the ball would be gone 80 yards, no backswing.

DJ (Carey) as well — some of DJ’s aura came from the speed, but he could do what he needed with the ball when it was needed, too. I remember marking him in the 1997 semi-final and chasing him, which was never an ideal scenario for me. He wasn’t getting away from me, which convinced me I was in great shape, though he probably knew it was me behind him and was going at three-quarter pace.

I was saying to myself ‘I have him for the hook’ and (Frank) Lohan came across and had him for the block, but he threw the ball in front of his left shoulder and hit it without swinging the hurley, batted it forward. Goal, corner of the net, Fitzy (Davy Fitzgerald) didn’t see it. DJ was a brilliant handballer, of course, which probably helped, but I was bulling because I thought I had him. The genius came into play then, though.

In Clare in my time... Liam Doyle, while the rest of us were struggling to get the ball away, he’d have it cleared up the field. When I was U21 with Clare, though, Doyle was in goal. He was probably too lazy at training to play out the field. If you were second-last in the training runs, you were ahead of him anyway. But when he got himself in shape... what an economical hurler. And a lot of that came from being a goalkeeper at the start. With me, I’d win the ball and lean into a fella, and get tackled, and then get the ball away — Doyle would just flick the wrists, the ball was gone.

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