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Sunday 11 December 2016

Dub year on a blue ends note for hurlers

Lack of consistency killed Dublin's chances but Cunningham is full of hope for future

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham.
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham.
Limerick’s Cian Lynch and Clare’s Conor Cleary, along with Ger Cunningham, Bord Gáis Energy sports ambassador, were in Ennis ahead of the Bórd Gáis Energy GAA hurling U21 Munster Championship Final at Cusack Park, Ennis, on Thursday (7.0) which will be shown live on TG4

Consistency was the word Ger Cunningham bolded and underlined upon his appointment to the Dublin job and in the establishment of that particular virtue, after a first season in charge, he can't reasonably be said to have succeeded.

Beating Tipperary, Kilkenny and Limerick in the League and the latter in a tension-fused qualifier in Thurles, all highlighted different and useful qualities of his new team.

Their second half against Cork in the League semi-final, the calamity first half in Tullamore and blotches of bad in between showed equally, the team's propensity for alarming lulls.

On the plus side, a smattering of new players were given their stripes and a couple of peripheral men were promoted and flourished.

On the minus, too many key individuals spent too big a part of their season playing in the wrong places and possibly suffered at Sunday's crunch in Thurles as a result.

Progress? Maybe. Consistency? Nope.

Speaking yesterday though, Cunningham was of a mind only to judge his season in black and white - or to be more precise, in silver terms. "Our players have the same ambitions as any other players, in the other counties, the top counties," he reflected of his first season in charge in Dublin.

"We have to get up there. They want to win titles, All-Irelands, championships and leagues. That is the challenge for us to continue to see can we get there."

Does he feel that Dublin are far away?

"No, absolutely not. We were in the last six," Cunningham pointed out. "A couple of pucks of the ball yesterday and it could have gone either way, a couple of decisions didn't go our way.

Swayed

"In tight games, they can go our way. They could have swayed the game a different way.

"I think we need to go away, learn and reflect, look at the challenges we face next year. I'm looking forward to next year.

"We're in Division 1A, we're in a very competitive league where you have five matches and you don't really have room to experiment if you want to maintain your Division 1A status, which we did.

"We got to the League semi-final, a game we should have beaten Cork in.

"Going back to the first round of the championship, we had Galway nearly put away, we had a chance to go two points up in Croke Park and look at where Galway are now, into the semi-final, one game more than us.

"We had to regroup and we had two very good victories so overall, we had to get to know the players and the players had to get to know us.

"It's been a learning experience."

Rewarding

"We've introduced some new guys. Somebody said to me last night that there were five or six new guys introduced to make their championship debuts. We were unlucky with injuries as well, we got them at bad times.

"It is has been very challenging, and rewarding as well," Cunningham added of the constant travelling from Cork to Dublin and back again.

"The journeys home cannot be nice. They can be tiring at night. It is grand when you are going to training, you are planning, you are thinking ahead all the time, but your energy levels go down after a session like that.

"Having to face the road home can be tough enough, I've got to hear John Creedon and Alf McCarthy on Radio 1 quite a bit going home.

"I knew going into it that that was going to be the case. You take on that challenge where you have that journey.

"Overall, it has been great," he added. "I've enjoyed the experience so far and I am looking forward to it."

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