THERE was a time when Gary Maguire had to sustain himself on back-slaps and handshakes.
Martin Comerford was his primary donator. Few got the better of the Dublin goalkeeper more than the O’Loughlin Gaels man, his two goals in the 2009 Leinster final springing to mind. If it wasn’t with the county, he was doing it with the club.
But then Comerford was denied almost as much by Maguire’s shot-stopping skills. When the Kilkenny man extended the hand after the final whistle, it was more often than not a consolatory gesture but also coloured with a commending tone for Maguire’s display.
‘Gorta’ wasn’t there to press the flesh when Dublin beat Kilkenny in the league final earlier this month, the O’Loughlin Gaels man announcing his inter-county retirement soon after the game.
Maguire wouldn’t have minded his old adversary being there for that but it didn’t matter. After taking over from Brendan McLoughlin in 2004 as Dublin’s first-choice goalkeeper, he finally had something to show for his efforts.
And yet it’s now forgotten.
“It’s good to pick up silverware — that goes without saying. You’d be looking at All-Irelands, though. Nobody ever remembers league winners. It’s a national title and all that but come September not too many people are going to recall what we did.
“It hasn’t been easy. The last three years we’ve been building, training has been getting harder every year and the commitment levels are as close to professional as you can get.”
But now Dublin are the leading team in hurling on this year’s performances, is there a concern they are there for the likes of Offaly, their opponents tomorrow, to shoot down? “It’s not a worry, it’s great we’re up there. We have to maintain standards and if we don’t we won’t be there too long.”
Working in Hugh Munro & Co consultant engineers at Dublin Port, Maguire is somewhat removed from the hype being spun about Dublin hurling.
He’s immune to it at his club too. For as long as he can remember, Ballyboden St Enda’s grounds have been a hurling haven. It’s elsewhere in the capital that he hopes the victory over Kilkenny will spur on children to take up the game.
“A lot has been said about the amount of money that has gone into hurling in Dublin but you can put in all the money you want ... it’s not going to guarantee results,” insists Maguire.
“The hard work is where it all counts and if that inspires other lads to play then that’s great.”
The feel-good factor surrounding Anthony Daly’s team at the minute has seen tomorrow’s game switched from Parnell Park to Croke Park. Maguire is like any other — he enjoys the HQ experience. Dublin are also undefeated there this year but, interestingly, he maintains the bigger support will have little impact on his team’s performance.
“We’re used to Croker now after the few league games there. It doesn’t matter who’s at the game, you still have to perform.
“You can’t rely on the crowd to win you games. It’s up to yourself.”
Since that stunning league final glory, Daly has done his damnedest to keep his players’ feet on the ground. Last week, he invited his former team-mates Jamesie O’Connor, along with his brother, journalist and former Clare goalkeeper Christy, to take a training session.
As Maguire points out, Daly isn’t afraid to allow his charges hear different voices. “Christy did a bit of goalkeeping coaching with us and Jamesie did a few drills and he had a chat with the lads. By all accounts, he was good. Anthony brought in Ken Hogan for me and the keepers before.
“He wouldn’t be afraid of it. He doesn’t have an ego, he’s humble enough to do it. He’s good for the craic, he knows when to have it and he sure knows when not to.”
Ryan O’Dwyer certainly milked the opportunity to jovially mock Daly in the league final post-match press conference. But there’s little doubt the Tipperary native and Conal Keaney, the two new additions to the forward line, have improved the Dublin attack.
Maguire agrees: “They came in wanting to do things from the start. There was nothing like, ‘We’ll come in this year and give it a shot but it’ll be next year before we really get going’. Conal and Ryan got stuck into it straight away.”
Maguire admits Dublin haven’t paid too much attention to Offaly ahead of tomorrow’s clash.
With the number of injuries Joe Dooley has had to deal with, there is a possibility they could read too much into how weakened their opponents really are.
Simply, he said: “We’re expecting a huge performance from them and we’ll have to better it.”
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