herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

Blue is the colour as Ger plots demise of his own

ALLIANZ HL DIVISION 1A

DUBLIN v CORK

(Croke Park, Today 5.0, live Setanta Ireland)

IN one respect, you might view this evening's appetising first course as an uncomfortable conflict of interest for Ger Cunningham, coming face to face with his beloved Cork.

We don't see it that way: Cunningham comes across as an ambitious pragmatist who would have noted the Cork county board's prior reluctance to pursue him as a managerial option and planned accordingly.

Thus, he is now firmly installed in the Donnycarney hotseat ... and, if initial impressions are anything to go by, he is revelling in his belated opportunity.

New managers often encounter early turbulence. Thus far, it has been positively serene for Cunningham.

FALTERED

Critics may have spied an initial league programme - at home to Tipperary, away to Kilkenny - as a minefield, even more so after Dublin faltered from a winning position against a depleted Galway in the Walsh Cup final.

Two emphatic victories later - by 12 points against Tipp, and five against Kilkenny - they now find themselves sitting pretty at the top of Division 1A, and it would constitute a major collapse from here for Dublin to end up in a relegation play-off as opposed to a league quarter-final.

Still, the ideal scenario would be to maintain their February momentum as we move into March, conditions improve and the opposition step up their intensity.

Which brings us to Cork. They were poorer against Kilkenny than the two-point defeat indicated. Against Clare, after a slack start, they were worth every one of the ten points that separated the sides at the finish.

Maybe that bullish performance was a direct reaction to the criticism that followed their damp squib opener. Either way, there were numerous positives on the night - from full-back Christopher Joyce's shackling of Shane O'Donnell right through to the irrepressible double-act of Alan Cadogan and Patrick Horgan in the inside line.

If Cork bring the same feistiness to Croker, the hosts will have their fill of it. Yet, by the same token, if Dublin reprise the slickness of distribution and accuracy of execution that underpinned their defeats of Tipp and Kilkenny, then surely they can complete a notable early-season hat-trick against the Big Three?

You could argue they got slightly lucky against an already-understrength Kilkenny, given how David Treacy, Danny Sutcliffe, Mark Schutte and Éamon Dillon all flourished in the half-hour that followed Jonjo Farrell's subsequently rescinded red card. Nor can you totally gloss over their fadeout once Kilkenny went down to 13.

Still, in summary, it was a performance bristling with positives and we sense another one coming here.

ODDS: Dublin evens, Draw 9/1, Cork evens VERDICT: Dublin

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