On the 7th of July in Cusack Park, defeat to Clare finally brought the curtain down on a nightmare 2012 season for the Dublin hurlers.
League relegation followed by two poor championship performances (discounting facile Laois win) left their dreams in tatters. 2011 was a fantastic year that included a league title and an appearance in the championship semi-finals. What has gone wrong?
Dublin did lose some quality players to injury at different stages over the last 18 months, but this is not the core issue. In the modern game fitness and physical power have become the main concern with some coaches. Many have a background in football and rugby. They bring a defensive philosophy to the table, backed up by a fitness fixation. The core technical hurling skills can then suffer regression as there is an imbalance in overall preparation.
In 2011 this approach worked to some degree for Dublin. But long term a physical/defensive strategy is not really feasible. Playing 7 defenders and 5 forwards will lead to tactical problems against well coached teams at the top level. Physically there are also drawbacks as this approach is very demanding on players. They spend a lot of time without the ball and have to make draining tackles to win back possession that was not used wisely initially. The amount of serious injuries that occurred in the Dublin squad over the last two years was worryingly high.
In their last championship game against Clare a meagre total of 6 points from play was posted. This is not an accurate reflection of the overall potential and ability that this Dublin team possesses. But on the day the forward unit had little chance. They were regularly outnumbered by opposition defenders and the quality of ball supplied was aimless and lacked any real direction.
Hurling is a simple game and your level of success as a team ultimately comes down to how effectively you can move the ball down the field. Are we moving the ball fast enough? Are we moving it in to the correct areas? Are we getting our best finishers on the ball in space? How can we create more scoring chances? These are questions that any top coach should be asking himself on a regular basis.
Quite simple Dublin are not moving the ball in an effective manner and as a result are struggling to create scoring chances, especially goal scoring opportunities. This is the epicentre of all their problems. Dublin need a complete change of direction and approach, a simple attacking game plan must be implemented.
If Anthony Daly decides to stay on then he needs to make changes. He must get a top class hurling coach on board and someone to do some individual coaching with the forwards, the recently retired Eddie Brennan would be ideal. The future of the game in the capital is bright if some fundamental changes are brought about. 2013 is a massive year for all concerned.