herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

A first cup of cheer awaits Cunningham

Free-scoring Dubs look just too hot for Wexford

Dublin’s Eamon Dillon celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal against Galway in the Walsh Cup semi-final at Parnell Park Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Eamon Dillon celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal against Galway in the Walsh Cup semi-final at Parnell Park Photo: Sportsfile

So, from the embers of an off-season that briefly threatened to turn inflammatory, is there a Sky Blue phoenix rising?

This evening in Croke Park may tell us more - the Dublin hurlers are 70 minutes away from their first piece of silverware under Ger Cunningham.

It is, of course, wise to plead caution. Not alone is this the Walsh Cup, but a Walsh Cup that Kilkenny entered merely as a fixture-fulfilling pretence.

And besides, Dublin also reached last year's decider (losing narrowly to Galway) but ultimately failed to build on their early-season promise.

Still, Dublin have worked up a somewhat surprising head of steam this month.

It's not so much what they scored in the group stages - albeit they averaged a whopping 3-20 against UCD, Antrim and Laois - but rather that they followed up with a rollicking 1-28 against Galway.

Memo to all hurling fans stranded on Mars: Dublin and Galway don't particularly like each other. That being the case, Dublin went about avenging last summer's Tullamore debacle in just the right way: running up a massive Parnell Park tally en route to a nine-point victory.

Eamon Dillon helped himself to 1-3 against the Tribesmen. That, of itself, is scarcely headline-grabbing but it maintained a prolific trend for 'Trollier' who has amassed 4-11 from play in his four Walsh Cup matches to date.

Barring injury or an implosion against Wexford tonight, it's fair to surmise that Dillon has played his way onto Cunningham's initial league team (away to Tipperary on Saturday week). A player who has been on and off the team for several seasons looks determined to cement his place.

Regeneration

Others, too, have left a January calling card - notably Niall McMorrow. Several rookies have been blooded in a squad that patently needed some regeneration.

There has been a lot of comment about Cunningham's quest for more speed and an apparent shift in focus to a more possession-based game, carrying echoes of the noughties style patented by Newtownshandrum and later embraced by Cork.

But? Well, it is the Walsh Cup and even a Wexford team that easily brushed aside Offaly won't tell us the full story about Dublin's capacity for league and/or championship honours.

Walsh Cup final: Dublin v Wexford, Tonight 5.0

ODDS: Dub 3/10 Draw 10/1 Wex 11/4

VERDICT: Dublin

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