COMMITMENT IS KING for Johnny McCaffrey and the Dublin captain says the capital’s hurlers will have it in spades this season despite the defection of a few high-profile code breakers.
In preparation for Friday night’s Walsh Cup opener, McCaffrey and the Dubs were made to work on Sunday for a two-point win in their challenge match against Tipperary.
There was no sign of Ciarán Kilkenny in Nenagh after the youngster decided to focus exclusively on breaking into Jim Gavin’s football panel on his return from the AFL while Tomás Brady, a regular feature in defence under Anthony Daly, also switched from small ball to large in the autumn.
The challenge of playing both codes at inter-county level came under the spotlight again last week when Cork’s Eoin Cadogan nailed his flag to the Rebel footballers rather than struggle to meet two separate commitments in 2013.
And while McCaffrey understands Kilkenny and Brady’s decision to change, he said it’s the hurling which often suffers when players try to do both.
“You need to be hurling,” McCaffrey said yesterday at the launch this year’s Spring Series fixtures.
“If you’re playing both, you can keep going with the football but your skill in the hurling would lack because you’re missing a week’s hurling training. You wouldn’t have the hurl in your hand every day and at this level you need to have that every day.”
McCaffrey, right, and Ger Brennan at the launch of the Spring Series yesterday (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)
Brady’s decision to try his luck under Gavin this season came as a bit of a shock, McCaffrey revealed.
“It was a surprise but I was talking to him the night he made the decision and it’s something he always wanted to do and he said he’d have regrets if he didn’t do it.
“He’d be offered a few times before and said no. He said he mightn’t get a chance again and he would have regretted it if he didn’t get a chance. He’s played a good bit with Na Fianna through the years but it’s something he wanted to have a go at and I wish him the best of luck.”
Despite the losses — physical trainer Martin Kennedy has also joined Gavin’s backroom team — McCaffrey said that the dedication of those in the Dubs squad for 2013 will be their strength.
We’re very happy with the panel that we have. Everyone is working hard and fully committed behind the cause. Obviously you need talent but you need lads that are fully behind the cause and once you have that you’ll go a long way.
The first task will be to hit the ground running against UCD on Friday night and put the disappointment of last season’s league relegation behind them. McCaffrey knows they’ll be a little bit under the radar in Division 1B this year, but with a semi-final at stake for the division’s winners, it is important to build up some positive energy early on.
“[There's] the momentum you get from winning games but also the momentum you get from losing games. It’s hard to get out of that rut.
I know we had two big losses against Galway and Kilkenny in the league and championship and we sort of never really recovered from them. We always seemed to be chasing ourselves the whole time whereas the year before we had momentum and we were very confident in what we were doing. There was a couple of small little factors like that that hopefully we can put right this year.
He added: “Really it just comes down to hard work and everyone pulling in the right direction. When you have a squad, no matter how big or small it is, when everyone is pulling in the same direction it’s going to be very easy to go where you want to go. When you have a couple of lads going one way and not everyone going the same way, that’s when things can derail a bit. Everyone is really putting the head down this year and looking forward to the year ahead.”