Dublin hurling captain Johnny McCaffrey says the disappointment of last season’s All-Ireland campaign has been his side’s biggest motivation this year.
McCaffrey’s side take on Cork in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final encounter at Croke Park, having already claimed the Leinster title after overcoming the challenges of first Kilkenny and then Galway.
It’s a far cry from last season when the Dubs’ campaign ended prematurely after a dismal display against Clare saw their All-Ireland campaign end at the qualifier stage in early July.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, McCaffrey admitted that Dublin’s loss against Clare last season - and an earlier Leinster championship defeat to Kilkenny - acted as a big incentive for the Dubs this time out.
“After the disappointment of losing to Kilkenny and the two weeks later going and losing to Clare, I suppose we’ve built ourselves up all year to have a big campaign and to go far in the Championship and I suppose we fell flat on our face to be honest about it,” the Lucan Sarsfields’ clubman said.
"I suppose we fell flat on our face to be honest about it" - Johnny McCaffrey
“After the Clare game there was a lot of soul searching, thinking about where you can improve and that was the big thing. You can’t just quit after all the work we put in, in the last couple of years. It was always going to count for something.”
“We were just conscious that we wanted to keep our heads down and prove to everyone that was writing us off last year, that it wasn’t the real Dublin team that we are and that we wanted to prove everyone wrong this year,” he added.
McCaffrey also pointed the continuity in the Dublin backroom staff as a factor for Dublin’s success this season and claimed that manager Anthony Daly staying on for another campaign has helped give his side an edge.
“Anthony staying on was a massive thing for the players,” he said. “We sat down in September and thrashed it out, there was massive support for him to stay and that was crucial. He’s been through it all, he’s been through bad days with Clare and Dublin and he knew exactly what it would take to get back up to the top this year.
“If we had started with someone else, you have to start the whole process again. We had a bad year last year but we were going in the right direction in certain things we were doing and we just needed to top them up and get them right for this year.”