CIARÁN WHELAN believes there is sufficient depth of talent in Dublin to cope with the practical pressures of being a top-class dual county.
The Dubs have been a regular feature at the tail end of the football championship in the modern era, without winning the ultimate prize, and now the hurlers have given notice of their burgeoning capabilities by claiming the Allianz Hurling League.
Conal Keaney, Tomas Brady and Johnny McCaffrey were among those who celebrated that defeat of Kilkenny yet all three and more could, had they chosen different paths, been on duty for the footballers when they lost their league decider to Cork seven days earlier.
The absence of Keaney, who switched from Gilroy’s panel to Daly’s this year, had a particularly significant effect on the fortunes of the two squads, with the footballers’ lack of a left-footed free-taker proving a huge Achilles heel in the defeat by the All-Ireland champions.
The loss of such talents – not to mention the time, effort and money expended on hurling by the county board — hasn’t always sat well with devotees of the other code in the capital but Whelan believes both can prosper.
“With the population in Dublin, the players are certainly there. What tends to happen is the good guys are good at both and players can only play one game. The day of the dual player is finished. Can Dublin as a county cope with the dual status? I think they can.
“The hurlers have turned a massive corner and it’s important the footballers gain national success.
“It’s going to be a tough decision for some players in future years because hurling has made great strides and Dublin invested in hurling eight, nine years ago and they’re getting the
rewards. You can’t take your eye off the ball. The same is needed in football as well so, as I said, you can have a dual status in the county, I don’t think you can have a dual player but the players are there, there’s no doubt about it.”
There are any number of counties playing both football and hurling to a relatively high standard but Dublin have joined Cork and Galway in a select circle of those who can hold out some hope of claiming September success in either code.
It is ten years since Galway became the last county to reach both senior All-Ireland finals and 21 since Cork became the first and only county to take possession of both the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups in the same season.
If Whelan is to believed – and he is not just doing his bit to shield his former colleagues from expectation – then Kerry will come between Dublin and their hopes of emulating that double this year. But what of the hurlers? Like Whelan, Liam Sheedy was unveiled yesterday as one of the new talking heads for RTÉ’s Sunday Game this summer and the former Tipperary manager is in no doubt that the league champions are the real deal.
“Dublin aren’t a surprise to anyone. I would definitely have said coming into this year’s season that what happened against Antrim (losing in last year’s qualifiers) was unfortunate but maybe it has made them stronger.
“They realised that they switched off for the last ten minutes when they had been going comfortably. They’ve made some additions to the team look to have quality on the pitch and quality on the bench.”
The challenge for Dublin will be maintaining that momentum through a Leinster championship which is taking on its most competitive hue since the 1990s what with their rise, Galway’s admittance and Kilkenny’s dip.
Sheedy believes it is still too early to consign the Brian Cody era to history but he had no hesitation in agreeing with the fact that Kilkenny’s aura of invincibility has been eradicated after their destruction in the league final.
There are no such asterixes attached to Tipperary but Sheedy’s old boys’ bid to record a first back-to-back in 46 summers will get underway against a Cork side which inflicted such a hefty defeat on them 12 months ago.
“This is their fourth time in four years going into battle together so it won’t be easy by any way shape or form. It is ideal because it will focus Tipp. You won’t be thinking ahead, you won’t be thinking of All-Ireland finals, you will be thinking of the first round.”
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