DUBLIN hurlers may be closer to getting to a Leinster hurling final than they have been for some time, but, County Board Secretary John Costello accepts that it’s too early to be talking about a revival of fortunes.
The county last qualified for a decider in 1991 and last appeared on the winner’s rostrum 30 years earlier and while they have been successful at under-age and colleges level over the last five years, the ‘real challenge’ will be to transfer that to senior ranks, he stresses.
On Sunday they make the short journey to Croke Park with a degree of optimism to take on Wexford in their Leinster championship semi-final replay, and most observers would agree that it’s warranted following their display in Nowlan Park last weekend.
Currently, Costello reckons that they are ‘miles behind Kilkenny’, but shies away from speculating on their standard relative to Offaly — who were well beaten by the Cats last Sunday — or Laois, who in turn were hammered by Offaly in the first round. “We don’t like to assess ourselves on a league table like that,’’ he commented.
“We would like to see the standard levelling out and a larger number of teams able to compete, as opposed to having a league table where we are better than county x or y.’’
Diarmuid Healy, who managed Offaly to their All-Ireland successes in 1981and 1985, before coming back to coach his native Kilkenny, spent several years in Dublin putting structures in place and overseeing the promotional effort. Additionally, the Leinster Council and the Board itself have invested heavily in financial terms and up to 40 GPO’s (Gaelic Promotion Officers) work at club level throughout the county (in developing both codes).
The combination of their efforts (and the work being done at schools level) has seen Dublin achieve success in Leinster at under-21 and minor level, while two years ago Dublin Colleges captured the All-Ireland title. Earlier this year, a north city under-14 combination went all the way to win the provincial trophy. However, as encouraging as this progress has been, Costello points out that ‘they have won nothing yet’ at adult level.
“We have had some limited success with development squads, but the acid test will be to retain our Division One status in the League next year and to be confident of playing with the elite counties. A win on Sunday would be a reward for all the hard work that has been done in the promotion of hurling for the last number of years.
“Many counties have produced very successful under-age teams but they haven’t actually gone on to excel at senior level. That is the challenge for us. We have to transfer it to senior before we can start talking.’’
“Drawing with Wexford last Sunday was satisfying, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. The game was there for the taking. Basically, we have to get into the Leinster final consistently, it’s only then we can say we have made progress. We have to take a serious scalp at some stage, but we would need to do that on a consistent basis, not just on the rare occasion.’’
Clearly, the fact of football being the number one sport means that some promising dual players have been lost to the county, the likes of Shane Ryan and Conal Keaney for instance. But, the Dublin boss doesn’t see this happening in the future, pointing out that in more recent times, players have been making a choice between the codes.
“We would encourage them to do that. But, because of the popularity of hurling on the national stage and the limited under-age success we have had, far more players are opting to stay with hurling!’’
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