Fifteen minutes into the second half, Dublin led by 0-18 to 1-9 but amazingly they failed to push on. They managed just one more score as the Ulster champions finished in style.
The Saffrons levelled through a Shane McNaughton free on 70 minutes, and two minutes into injury time, Karl Steward fired over the winning score.
“It’s a big setback for Dublin hurling,” admitted a shattered Daly afterwards.
“Six points ahead – Jesus. You take a few steps forward, and the bit of progress on Wednesday night (beating Wexford in the Leinster U21 final) was good.
“But then you get a belt like today, and it’s another step back. At the start of the year we agreed another year (to my term), but my attitude to that we’ll have a look at it at the end of every year. And if my message wouldn’t be getting through, sure you’d have to consider your situation.
“What do they (the players) do — do they give up or keep coming back for more?
“It mightn’t be with me, but they have to come back for more – they’re young, they have a huge amount of hurling in front of them. They have to keep coming forward and try to make progress bit by bit. It’s a school of hard knocks.”
But even when Dublin went six points up, Daly still felt that his side were far from assured of emulating last year’s feat of clinching an All-Ireland quarter-final place.
“No, I didn’t think it was in the bag at that stage,” he stressed. “We needed to drive on, but we didn’t, and we got only one score (in the last 20 minutes) from a free. We just seemed to lose our way. Maybe we felt that we had it won, and mentally relaxed.
“Half-time (Antrim 1-7 Dublin 0-10), we knew we were in a bit of a situation, and we spoke about coming out of the blocks and getting ahead. But we never got a goal again, and it’s been our Achilles heel all year. We had a couple of goal chances. Right at the end Liam (Ryan) had a chance, and Declan O’Dwyer had a chance in the first half.
“It’s not from not practising goals, we were hitting more balls into the goal other night.”
In contrast to Daly’s mood, Antrim supremo Dinny Cahill was in buoyant spirits.
“It’s a great day for Antrim hurling and a great day for Ulster hurling,” enthused the Tipperary man.
“The game nearly went away from us at one stage in the second half. But we were used to going behind – we went behind in the Carlow game as well and we fought back. And it proved a point that the game is never over until the final whistle. Six points in hurling is very little and when it went into the last 10 minutes I felt there was only one team going to win it. And that was Antrim.
“I felt that we had everything going for us, we were driving forward, and the subs we brought on made a big contribution. We got a free at one stage, and the lads were tempted to go for a goal, but we insisted that they go for a point which reduced it down to four. “That was a key thing as if Dublin had blocked that and come down the field for a point, it would have been demoralising for us. So in hindsight it was a wise decision.”
DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Corcoran, T Brady, O Gough; S Hiney, J Boland, M O'Brien; S Lambert, S Durkin; P Kelly, L Rushe, D O'Dwyer; P Carton, D O'Callaghan, A McCrabbe.
Subs used: P Ryan for Durkin (half-time), M Carton for Kelly (51 mins), D Treacy for O'Callaghan (54), L Ryan for Rushe (56), K Flynn for O'Brien (64).
Dublin Scorers: A McCrabbe 0-9 (0-6f, 0-1 '65'), S Lambert (0-2f), P Carton 0-3 each, J Boland, L Rushe, D O'Callaghan, P Ryan 0-1 each.
ANTRIM: C O'Connell; K McGourty, C Donnelly, S Delargy; P Shiels, J Campbell, C Herron; S McNaughton, K Stewart; S McCrory, N McManus, T McCann; PJ O'Connell, L Watson, K McKeegan.
Subs used: B McFall for Shiels (46 mins), E McCloskey for McCann (53), M Herron for McKeegan (69).
Antrim Scorers: N McNaughton 0-8 (0-8f), PJ O'Connell 1-1, S McNaughton (0-1f), L Watson (0-1f), K McKeegan 0-2 each, S Delargy, K Stewart 0-1 each.
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).