Friday, February 25, 2011

Dublin Hurling Gains a Valuable Asset - Ryan O'Dwyer

Birthplace of the GAA. Winners of the first All-Ireland hurling championship. John Doyle and Nicky English. Semple Stadium. 26 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championships. It may not take as long to travel from Dublin to Tipp these days, but in terms of hurling tradition the distance is vast. One of the newest additions to the Dublin Senior Hurling squad comes from the rich hurling tradition of Tipperary. Along with Conal Keaney, Ryan O’Dwyer has joined the Dublin hurling set up and given a boost to the 2011 prospects of the metropolitan’s hurlers. A native of Cashel, O’Dwyer has quite a hurling resume despite his relatively young age of 24 years. O’Dwyer made his senior county debut with the Tipperary hurlers in 2007, the year of the trilogy with Limerick, and has won National League title and Munster titles. A supremely talented athlete, O’Dwyer has also represented his native county in football at senior level.

Ryan O'Dwyer feels big things are not far away for the Dubs.

How does a lad from Cashel end up donning the sky blue of the Dubs? Having moved to Dublin after accepting a teaching post at St. MacDara’s in Templeogue, O’Dwyer joined Kilmacud Croke’s and was approached by Anthony Daly about joining the Dublin hurling squad. O’Dwyer was given an offer he could not resist. “I jumped at the opportunity” said O’Dwyer. “It was a no-brainer really. Dublin are a team on the way up, a top tier team. If you take Kilkenny and Tipperary out of it, Dublin are definitely third or fourth in line in the country. On any given day Dublin would give either of those two a run for their money.”

Hurling tradition runs deep in Tipperary, and while there has been a tremendous focus on the small ball game in Dublin over the last decade, there is still a lot of catching up to do in the history department. O’Dwyer feels that the breakthrough to the beginnings of establishing a hurling tradition in Dublin is very close, and that the obstacles are more mental than anything else. “Skill-wise there is absolutely no difference between Dublin and Tipperary,” said Ryan emphatically. “Tipp expect to win because their history dictates it. Dublin does not have that history. Dublin might take the field and think that there is no chance of beating the other lads. If Dublin can get out of that mindset we can win. Dublin have to learn not to fear other teams.”

Despite being a little nervy at the entering the Dublin setup, O’Dwyer has been extremely happy with the transition. “The change has been brilliant. I’m enjoying it. I was nervous going down to training the first night, not sure if lads would be thinking who does this guy think he is. Everybody involved has made me feel welcome.” said O’Dwyer. The Tipp native continued, “Lads went out of their way to talk to me and make me feel included. That made it so easy.”

Dublin have had a good start to the league with a draw against Munster Champions, Waterford, and a recent win against the All-Ireland Champions, O’Dwyer’s native Tipperary. “It’s not very often you get to play the All-Ireland champions in Croke Park” enthused O’Dwyer. “It was an exciting experience. National League, Croke Park under lights, if you couldn’t get up for that you can’t get up for anything.” O’Dwyer was coming back from a shoulder injury and did not start the game but came on late in the first half. “I got back from the injury sooner than I expected. Usually that type of injury takes 6 weeks to recover from, but I was back in 3. I worked harder on that than on anything in my life. My main aim was to get on the pitch, and not just because it was Tipp. It would have made no difference if it was Galway or anybody else. It was a double header with the footballers and there was a lot of build up to it. I had to be out there.”

Dublin have several one-off notches in their belt over recent years, and at minor and under-21 level have experienced success. However, a major success such as a National League title, Leinster championship, or All-Ireland remains elusive at senior level. O’Dwyer feels that the breakthrough is not far away, and while in the near term expectations have to be realistic, winning has to be the goal. “Somebody told me that Dublin’s main aim should be to stay in Division 1 of the league.” O’Dwyer discounts that assessment. “You play to be the best, our goal should be to win Division 1 and win a Leinster championship with it. I believe Dublin will win Leinster sooner rather than later.”
O'Dwyer in full flight for the Wexford Hurling Club vs Tipp in Boston.

O’Dwyer spent the last two summers in Boston playing with the Wexford Hurling Club and the Galway Football Club. O’Dwyer won a North American Championship with Wexford in 2009, but that year had lost the Boston final in controversial circumstances. O’Dwyer did not start that Boston final as he had injured his leg, but came on in the second half and Wexford almost won it, however, a last second goal was disallowed. The disappointment still sticks with O’Dwyer, but he could not say enough about his time in Boston. O’Dwyer clearly feels that he has a home away from home in the States. “I can’t speak highly enough of the lads out there. I had the time of my life,” gushed O’Dwyer. “I made friends for life, any time I go to America I know I’ll have a place to stay in Boston. The lads there would do anything for you. It means so much to them. “ O’Dwyer was committed to the cause of the clubs he played with, and was also impressed with the standard of play. “The hurling out there is as strong as anything I’ve played. The Wexford team I was on would be as good as a top 2 or 3 team in Tipp. You’ll have the best summer of your life out there, but you’ll hurl serious,” he added.

Dublin senior hurling has gained a valuable asset in O’Dwyer. The man comes to play and there is no doubting his enthusiasm. Talking does not seem to be a problem for him, but he can also do his talking on the field. If making the collective push for the big breakthrough in Dublin hurling is the sum of many small individual pushes, there no doubt that O’Dwyer will account for a bit more than a nudge.

By Rory O'Donnell

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