‘Evolution happens in every team’: Criticism from ex-Dubs doesn’t concern Ger Cunningham
DUBLIN BOSS GER Cunningham isn’t paying much attention to the flak he’s taken from several former squad members as he prepares his squad for the upcoming campaign.
Michael Carton, Conal Keaney and Peter Kelly are among the exiles who’ve been scathing in their criticism of the operation run by the Cork native, but Cunningham is unperturbed.
“I’m just looking forward to the guys that I have now,” he says defiantly. ”We’re just looking forward now and trying to build a culture with these guys that will bring success to the county.
“Evolution happens in every team. All these guys that have come in have done really, really well. Obviously the fact that they’re so young means they’ll hopefully be there for the next generation of Dublin hurlers.
“But we’re looking at the here and now, we’re not looking so much to the future.”
The current Dublin squad is almost unrecognisable from the 2013 Leinster SHC winning team as Cunningham places his faith in youth with the addition of several 2016 minors to the panel.
Darragh Grey, Ciaran Dowling, Conor Burke, Donal Burke and Cian O’Sullivan all join having played at the U18 grade last year, while Fergal Whitely is a year older and has also been added to the squad.
Cuala’s extended run to the All-Ireland club hurling semi-finals has resulted in the fast-tracking of those youngsters to the senior team for the Walsh Cup, but Cunningham has been suitably impressed with how they’ve adjusted to senior ranks.
“I watched them a few times during the year with the minors, they all performed very well. Six is a huge number, but I suppose the Cuala scenario has forced our hand to push them forward that bit sooner than we had planned.
Ger Cunningham was at Dublin GAA’s new commercial partnership announcement with Subaru
Source: Gary Carr/INPHO
“They have all been excellent, their attitude is really, really good. It takes time for young guys to settle in a senior set-up, it is a big step up to come from minor into a senior set-up, but I couldn’t be happier with their attitude and the way they’ve bought into what we are trying to do.
“Again we have to be careful because it is a busy time for them. These guys are in college, some of them are doing Leaving Cert, so we have to balance it. We have to make sure they aren’t overdoing it.”
Between the Cuala contingent and players playing with their colleges, Cunningham estimates the Metropolitans are down “about 20 players” for the pre-season competition.
In the first two games of the Walsh Cup, Dublin have pulled off wins over Carlow and UCD. Despite the recent negative press surrounding the county’s hurlers, he believes there are reasons to be optimistic.
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“We still feel they’re still the best hurlers that we’ve seen in Dublin,” he continues.
“(Last) year the U21s got to the All Ireland semi-final and the minors have been to Croke Park for the past two years. On the back of those teams you’d be hoping that you’d get a batch of guys coming through putting their hand up for selection.
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“We still have a core group of guys in their mid 20s that are good enough to play at this level. Between those two we have a good crop of players coming through.
Dublin’s Cian O’Sullivan celebrates scoring the first goal of the game against UCD
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
“It is a young team, we have a tough league campaign. We won’t get any tougher than playing Tipp in the first league match, we don’t have eight (Cuala) players as part of the squad that day so it forces us to go outside and to show confidence in other lads that are there.
“And then if we can survive Division 1, it will be a really great test because of the five matches that we have. Hopefully then we will get the bonus of the Cuala lads coming in at the start of April.”
For the moment the four-time All-Star expects Con O’Callaghan’s focus to remain with Jim Gavin’s football squad, but he didn’t rule anything out.
“It goes without saying I’d love to have a player like Con available to us. The time he was in with us around 15 months ago, he had just come out of minor. He always said to us that football was his first love.
“You’d love to have him there. We wish him the best, but at the same time he knows the door is always open to us if he wants to play hurling. I think his focus is going to be on football for the next while.”
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