Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dublin allowed to smile

Cunningham reflects on positive Walsh Cup run as easy Wexford win nicely sets up tilt at league

Dublin captain Liam Rushe lifts the Bord na Mona Walsh Cup after beating Wexford by ten points in Croke Park on Saturday night.
Dublin captain Liam Rushe lifts the Bord na Mona Walsh Cup after beating Wexford by ten points in Croke Park on Saturday night.

An odd part of the relationship Dublin currently have with the Walsh Cup is that they sustain far more damage from losing the final than they can glean cheer from winning it.

It's a 'damned if they don't/ignored if they do,' sort of arrangement.

You only have to remember an agitated Anthony Daly decrying his team's reluctance to "go to the ball," after the 2014 final loss to Kilkenny and as a recent example.

So a Dublin team unrecognisible from that which played last summer and who, in all probability, won't look a whole lot more than that which plays this summer, hadn't much more than a trophy to win on Saturday night against Wexford in Croke Park.

Which they did. Easily.

Leaving Ger Cunningham to reflect on a positive January on its penultimate and coldest evening.

"We were just counting the numbers there," he explained after a 1-22 to 1-12 win over Liam Dunne's team.

"I think we were down 20 players that we couldn't consider for different reasons.

"So we set out with no ambition, really, other than giving fellas a chance to put their hand up for selection to make the panel and to build momentum and go along."

Which sums it up nicely.

You could, if you were so inclined, attach some greater significance to the result via the fact that Dublin and Wexford will meet again on June 11 in the quarter-finals of the Leinster SHC.

This would be to overstate the relevance of Saturday night in the extreme.

"That was the comment from a few of the Wexford guys afterwards that they'll see us in May," Cunningham revealed.

"You can only live for today really.

"May is a long time away. A lot can happen between now and then. So we were just focusing on this week's performance. What happens in May has no relevance to today."

Besides, Cunningham has more immediate matters to attend to.

Primaily, jigsaw-ing a team together from the hardy bucks who won the Walsh Cup, the unseen third level brigade and the couple of currently injured players who Cunningham expects to be ready for the trip to Thurles in two weeks' time.

Saturday night probably revealed bits and pieces on that front.


Liam Rushe played at full-back, though his non-availability through suspension for the Tipperary game and perhaps, Cunningham's desire to expose his captain to marking Liam Óg McGovern probably explained that call.

There were mini victories everywhere. Johnny McCaffrey was tidy on the wing.

Conor Dooley, despite allowing McGovern catch a clean ball for Wexford's goal, pulled off a string of important early saves.

And Eamonn Dillon - after a couple of early wides and a more peripheral first half than Cunningham would have liked - came up with a sweet goal from a gem of a pass from Mark Schutte to finally kill the game.

That brought Dillon's Walsh Cup tally to 5-12 and his preoccupation with driving at goal, should his form hold this year, is something Dublin crave.

With Dotsy O'Callaghan, Paul Ryan and David Treacy all rotating with a sort of unpredictable effect, Cunningham also looks slightly closer to cracking how to get the maximum out of the three whilst on the pitch at the same time.

"We've been working on different things in training and trying to bring it to the pitch.

"But the focus turns to three weeks' time. We've to go to Thurles," he added.

"But it's nice when you get a chance to win a trophy, to win it."

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