Dublin hurler David Treacy is feeling the benefits of his first pre-season in four years despite the disappointment of missing out on Leinster club finals action with Cuala.
The Dalkey side surrendered their Dublin Senior Championship title last year after they were beaten in the semi-finals by local rivals Kilmacud Crokes.
They had won the three previous titles and – symbolic of the game’s strength in south Dublin at the moment – it was Ballyboden St Enda’s who edged out Crokes in the final.
Cuala’s success has meant that Treacy – due to his involvement in Leinster and All-Irelands – has been playing catch-up when the intercounty hurling season kicks off at the start of the year.
And though there will be no Walsh Cup final for the Dublin hurlers, as they fell to a one-point defeat to Galway on Sunday, there were plenty of positives.
Mattie Kenny’s side put up a valiant effort to rein in an eight-point deficit in the final 20 minutes in what was nearly a dream comeback for the new Dublin manager against his county of birth.
Kenny was the mastermind behind Cuala’s transformation into arguably Leinster’s hurling powerhouse, and he’ll look to do the same with the intercounty side.
Treacy, at 29, is now one of the senior players and he sees a similar optimism in the camp as when he first stepped up to the panel a decade ago under Anthony Daly.
“When I came onto the panel there was obviously a huge amount of positivity around the Dublin set-up and where we wanted to be,” Treacy tells the Dublin Gazette.
“We probably haven’t achieved what we set out to achieve over these past number of years, but the panel Mattie has put together at the minute is hugely positive.
“The most important thing is making sure we keep everyone fit and he has a full deck to choose from.
“Hopefully we can see better days in the season to come.”
From a personal point of view, the provision of a first pre-season since 2015 represents an opportunity to, for once, do the bulk of his preparation within the intercounty set-up.
“We would have wanted to progress further with Cuala, that’s obvious, but when one door closes another one opens. This gives me an opportunity. I’m someone who needs the pre-season.
“Club is brilliant, and the skill levels are there, but conditioning and game time [is vital] to make sure so that when May or June comes along I’m in the best position possible for myself.
“You’re talking eight or nine Cuala guys in the panel from the off, and the Boden guys have come back, so Mattie has a full deck to choose from.”
With Johnny McCaffrey, Gary Maguire and Shane Durkin retired, there’s a new breed of hurler coming through the system and a potential new look to the Dublin side.
“They’re a huge loss to Dublin. It’s the next chapter of their lives. Priorities will change and no one will ever say they left anything unturned.
“They were three unbelievable players and had unbelievable attitudes towards training day in day out.
“There is a depth of talent there, so it’s just making sure we can get the most out of it.”