National Hurling League champions Dublin fell at the first hurdle on Sunday when they suffered a seven point defeat away to Galway in their opening Division 1A game.
The young Galway side were well worth their 0-20 to 0-13 win after a performance that pleased new manager Anthony Cunningham.
Cunningham said, “The pitch was a small bit heavy. It was a typical early league match where touch might have been a bit off in certain quarters. But it was a good battle and when you get to play Dublin they always bring a battle to it.
“The thing that pleased us is that we battled and fought hard and that is the way hurling has gone.
“We’re very happy with the new players who’d effectively be Declan Connolly, Niall Donoghue, Niall Burke and Conor Cooney who were making their debut, and a lot of other players who are gone 21 or coming 22 who have a lot of experience under their belt now like Davy Burke and James Regan.
“It was a great team effort but nobody is getting carried away. We have huge development to do with this team. But we do have good material to work with and the boys are very willing.”
Niall Burke scored 10 points for Galway, much to the delight of manager Cunningham.
“He has been going very well for NUIG and with us as well. He is a great prospect but to get to the very top will take time and effort,” Cunningham said.
“We have the raw material. That would be the clear message from here. But we need time to get to the top of our game. We have the players, but we won’t be getting carried away with this. The big question is how much can we develop?”
Cunningham also urged his youngsters to stay grounded after the victory.
He said, “Dublin were probably short a few players today and their focus is on a Leinster or All-Ireland campaign, maybe more so.
“That is not taking away from our guys as it was a tricky enough breeze and we shot some great scores. That is something the supporters and ourselves would be happy with.”
Dublin boss Anthony Daly was critical of his team. He said, “It was a poor performance. You couldn’t call it anything else.
“The way it seemed was the Galway boys wanted the 50/50 balls more on the day than we did. Why that is I don’t know. Everything seemed right during the week. We were happy with the preparation and we were happy with ourselves coming into it. It just didn’t happen for us.”
Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald had to dampen the celebrations after Clare opening their NHL season with a 2-24 to 1-13 win over neighbors Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night – after falling behind early on.
“When we went down five points, it wasn’t looking great, but I had a feeling that we just hadn’t got into gear,” said Fitzgerald.
“We gave up a soft goal at the start and we know why that happened -- it was something that we had talked about for three-to-four weeks coming into this. But that will stand us in good stead going forward.
“But we recovered very well afterwards and they stuck to their stuff. How good were Limerick up there tonight? They just didn’t seem interested after the first half, so I don’t know. I can only think about our lads and they played really well, but Limerick again will be a different kettle of fish.
“It’s only the first round of the league and there’s no point in the people of Clare getting carried away. All they can expect -- and I said this from day one - is a hard --working team.”
New Limerick boss John Allen accepted the result. He said, “We have no excuses. After 15 minutes it looked like we were going to dominate the game, but they started winning at midfield, starting winning in the half back line and they over-ran us from then on.”
Kilkenny carried on where they left off last summer with an emphatic 2-17 to 0-15 win over Tipperary in the opening round of the National Hurling League.
Brian Cody’s side repeated their All-Ireland final victory over the Premier County with an eight point win at Nowlan Park.
Cody, well aware that his team are favorites for the league and championship this season, was happy with the first competitive outing of the year.
He said, “It was a good performance; it is nice to get two points out if it. We got into the game early, settled well and got a couple of quick scores.
“They came back at us for sure but the second goal gave us that bit of breathing space. We’re happy with the way things went.
“Richie Power is going well. He is in good form. I think overall the application was good from everybody and the teamwork was good. It was a good day for us.
“A good start to the league obviously, it was a good display and a good win.”
Tipp boss Declan Ryan was far from happy with the game. He said, “A very disappointing performance I have to say.