O'Donnell not interested in moral victories
By John Harrington
Eoghan O’Donnell says the Dublin hurling team is now at a stage of development where moral victories are viewed as worthless.
They were praised last year for their Leinster Championship performances after losing by two points to Kilkenny and Wexford and just one point to Galway.
In this year’s League, though, they came out on the right side of tight battles against quality teams like Waterford and Tipperary, and that’s given them the belief they can continue in that vein.
“Yeah, I suppose you take faith from them narrow victories,” said O’Donnell at today’s launch of Bord Gáis Energy’s continued sponsorship of the All-Ireland SHC.
“You have to see what you did right in games and try to implement it in games going forward.
“2018 was last year and we are kind of trying to move on from that. Moral victories never stood to anyone so we're moving on from that and focusing on what's coming ahead of us.”
Under new manager Mattie Kenny, Dublin have built on the solid foundations put in place last year by his predecessor Pat Gilroy.
O'Donnell estimates 32 players saw game-time in the League so there’s now impressive depth to this Dublin panel.
And the Dublin full-back admits the highlight of a hugely positive League campaign was the manner in which they claimed a statement victory over Tipperary in Semple Stadium in the Quarter-Final.
“You do have to enjoy those occasions,” he said. “It was 1946 since Dublin [last] went down there and won. It was a case of celebrating it for the evening, parking it and moving on from that.
“At the end of the day, you have to remember that it was the League; come championship, May, June, August, it's not going to stand for much. We have to take the learnings from it and implement them.
“You do have to enjoy those matches because the highs in sport make up for the lows."
Dublin were subsequently defeated by Limerick in the Allianz Hurling League semi-final but put up a stout resistance against the eventual champions.
O’Donnell, in particular, was outstanding, and in the aftermath of the game was hailed as the best full-back in the country by former Waterford hurler, John Mullane.
“It's very nice and John Mullane is obviously a legend of the game so it's great to hear,” said O’Donnell of that lofty praise.
“But you have to block as much of it out as you can because it invites pressure onto you for the next day. The lads would never be short of pulling you up on things, you're not long getting a big head in our camp.
“Going out the next day, it doesn't stand for an awful lot when I'm playing against Kilkenny in the championship. You just have to keep the head down in training and try to match that level every day.”
That Championship match against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on May 11 is playing on O’Donnell’s mind because he knows it could easily make or break their season.
If they lose it then they’ll be immediately under pressure to get a win eight days later against a fresh Wexford team who will be playing their first match of the campaign.
But if they win it, then the whole summer could open up for Dublin. On the back of a positive League campaign, it’s no surprise to hear O’Donnell and his team-mates are backing themselves to have a good cut off this Championship.
“Yeah, I'd say there is confidence,” he said. “People are enjoying it, which is the main thing. You're coming to training with a smile on and training [sessions] are short and sharp.
“As the evenings get longer, it's great because you're on grass pitches. This the time of year hurling you want to be hurling.
“We'll take faith that we were competitive with most teams in the league this year and we hope to do the same with Kilkenny.
“They are a different beast and Brian Cody is well able to get them primed and ready.
“It will be a great challenge going down to Nowlan Park. The momentum, if we can pull a win out of the bag there, is massive going forward.”