A knockout hurling championship could be a glorious celebration at the end of the coronavirus shutdown, says Anthony Daly.
The two-time All-Ireland winning Clare captain says the final year of a pure knockout format gave him the most memorable day of his hurling life, even if it ended in defeat.
Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast, Daly picks out the Munster final defeat by Limerick in 1996, when Clare, then All-Ireland champions, were beaten by a late, virtuoso Ciarán Carey point.
“People say, what was the best day of all time. And for us, we’d always say the Munster final of ‘95. That was the one. We weren’t losing All-Irelands. Munster was the one we couldn't get over.
“But the most memorable day I ever hurled was certainly that day going into Limerick.
“The bus used go past the great Davin Arms on the left. We couldn't see the tarmacadam on the road with people. The guards had to try and free the bus to go up along.
“(Ger) Loughnane famously catching the microphone at the front of the old Glynns coach and saying ‘look out lads, don’t be afraid to look out. This is what your father and your grandfather told you about. This is the Munster Championship’.
“I had a fine head of hair back then. And any hairs on the back of your neck were standing. You either embraced it or you shit yourself. And I think we all embraced it.
“And we lost to a great Limerick team, who possibly could have won two All-Irelands and we could have lost the two All-Irelands.
“That was just the luck, the tightness of it all.”
With no indication when action on the field can resume this year, Daly believes a throwback championship would recreate some of that magic in the time available.
“For one glorious autumn, maybe if we went for it again, it could be glorious.
“I’d love if there was a back door but I’d be fearful that wouldn't be the case. Maybe not even All-Ireland semi-finals.
“Have a Munster final and a Leinster final and the winners would go straight to an All-Ireland final.
“You’d still have Munster champions and Leinster champions.”
The prospect of fierce provincial battles later in the year does remind Daly of less enjoyable Munster afternoons.
“Clare v Tipp in Cork in August, winner takes all, have to make the long walk up to the Imperial Hotel if you’re bate, the Tipp lads roaring out the window at you.
“I think it was 2000. Myself and Brian Lohan walking up along. We said we’d walk because the bus was going nowhere.
“And this Tipp car, lads from Holycross or somewhere, five of them in the car. You could hardly see out the windows with Tipp flags draped everywhere.
“And your man let down the driver’s window and said, ‘now they’re making ye walk home’.”
Dalo admits the current shutdown has given him a fresh appreciation of GAA life.
“I’m involved with our U21s at Clarecastle and there were nights in December, driving over the 23 or 24 miles and it pelting rain, freezing and I was saying, ‘how did I let myself get involved in this?’.
“I could have done with a year out, not long finished with Kilmacud.
“But if there was only a training session tonight, I’d be over there two hours before it, setting it up and driving into it.”