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Sunday 20 August 2017

Dub hurlers still seek outside help

Sutcliffe favours big name as Cunningham odds shorten

LAST year, Dublin were Leinster hurling champions and a genuine top-four team. The summer just gone, they were cast adrift and lost a manager overboard too.

According to Danny Sutcliffe, what happens next at county board level is absolutely crucial for the health of Dublin hurling. Appointing the right man to replace Anthony Daly is "massive" - especially if Dublin want to convince the next generation of emerging dual stars to look at the big picture and still choose small ball.

As Sutcliffe sees it, whatever chance Daly had of prising away Cormac Costello or Ciarán Kilkenny from football's magnetic embrace, Dublin hurlers won't have any hope of luring the next Costello or Kilkenny if they appoint the wrong man this time.

At time of going to press, there was still no white smoke from Donnycarney HQ but Dublin chairman Andy Kettle did confirm: "We hope to be in a position to bring forward a name for ratification on Wednesday night."

Last week, it was widely reported that four candidates - Ger Cunningham of Cork, former Dublin minor and U21 boss Shay Boland, Galway's Mattie Kenny and Liam Hogan, the Offaly native who led Ballyboden St Enda's to five consecutive Dublin SHC titles - were on the interview shortlist.

Since then, there has been mounting speculation that Cunningham - the Leeside goalkeeping legend who coached Jimmy Barry Murphy's Cork to last year's All-Ireland final - is the man Dublin want to take the reins.

Sutcliffe has known only one Dublin manager. "If you see Anthony Daly - a big name, big pull," he explained, speaking in Croke Park yesterday at the announcement of a new GAA/GPA partnership deal with Best Menswear. "And if that's not there, sure why would you go play (hurling) when you've Jim Gavin with the football winning you All-Irelands?

"So it's huge for younger lads coming through. You have to be able to sell it to them, because some lads are that good - like Cormac Costello, who can just go 'I'll pick either-or.'"

Sutcliffe tacitly accepted that, as things stand, Dublin currently needs another high-profile 'outside' manager.

Reflecting on Daly's time, he expanded: "We needed someone who had won All-Irelands. He obviously had a template himself and we nearly got there ... we didn't.

"I think we need that again. Obviously, with Dublin football that has All-Irelands, there are people there - Dessie (Farrell) has gone to the U21s now and Jim (Gavin) went from U21. We just don't have that.

"We're building that and as years go by you could see some lads, that we're playing with now, managing teams. But I think it's massive to get this appointment (right) and it shouldn't be rushed either."

Harking back to when Daly arrived in the capital, back in late 2008, Sutcliffe surmised that it wasn't a case of "we're going to win All-Irelands" straight away: "He wanted to finish with a good panel - not just 15, a good 32 hurlers. And that's what he left with. We've a good 30 hurlers who can compete with anyone, and that wouldn't have been there - I don't think - if Anthony Daly hadn't been there.

"So I think we need to dig in because, if not, it will be a huge setback. The years fly by; you don't want to be sitting next July and you're wondering 'It's not going well again'."

Under Daly's tutelage, Sutcliffe reached All Star heights in 2013 but the dynamic wing-forward has just endured a difficult summer blighted by injury (he missed the Wexford opener with a broken hand) and then a struggle to regain championship sharpness (he was replaced against both Kilkenny and Tipperary).

"People are telling me that I'm fitter now with the club than I was in the summer," said the St Jude's man, "but at the time I wouldn't make an excuse for getting taken off. I just wasn't good enough that day.

"Maybe, looking back, people say to me I shouldn't have played because I wasn't up to the speed the lads were. I thought I was when I came back training but I didn't have much time to come back at all - one or two sessions. No excuse. I didn't do the panel justice."

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