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Monday 26 September 2016

Dubs tap into positive vibes

Experience of 2013 victory can help us: Cunningham

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham. Photo: Sportsfile

The similarities couldn't be more obvious.

Dublin, having kept Wexford down for another year, travel to Portlaoise on a Saturday night to take on Kilkenny, the reigning All-Ireland champions.

But also, a Kilkenny team that look a little more vulnerable than usual, given the identity and importance of their injured players.

"Definitely, the confidence that they got from that would be personal to them," Ger Cunningham told the Herald ahead of this week's repeat of the 2013 two-game saga that finished with Dublin's most important hurling result in 75 years.

"That team has changed somewhat. But you'd be certainly trying to draw from their experiences that night.

"But again, it's three years ago now. It's a situation where it's in the past now. But yeah, you would be hoping that you could tap into the positive vibes that you got from beating Kilkenny three years ago.

"You would tapping into any situation and take any learnings you can get from any match in the past."

The notion that Kilkenny are, in the absence of Richie Hogan and the expected absence of Michael Fennelly, there for the taking doesn't interest Cunningham much.

Concentrate

"We can only concentrate on our own game really. Like, we're in a similar situation," he pointed out.

"We don't have Peter Kelly, we don't have Cian Boland. Shane Durkin is only just back in.

"So we would love to have the fellas that we're missing as well. So we're only focusing on our own set up rather than worrying about Kilkenny."

Still, it's the All-Ireland champions.

TJ Reid's form is as impressive as any returning Hurler of the Year.

Eoin Larkin's excellence is yet to be appreciated this year, given his absence from Kilkenny's league campaign during his tour of service.

Colin Fennelly and Walter Walsh are, on those days when they occupy the outer extremities of their form, match-winners in their own rights.

"Players are intelligent guys. We know the challenge that is ahead of us," Cunningham insisted.

"We're playing a team that have won it for the last two years and they're favourites to do it again this year.

"So we know what's ahead of us going down on Saturday night.

"But we've put ourselves in a situation where we had a mixed league. We played them in the league and we saw what they were capable of.

"It's a huge task. A huge challenge to go down there."

Cunningham has been both helped and hindered by the county's under-21s of late.

Nine of his panel were involved last Wednesday in their Leinster U21HC victory over Wexford.

"Since the Wexford (senior game), we haven't had those nine fellas," the Cork native explained.

"But we have to respect their scenario as well.

"They were playing knock-out. They were going to Wexford so they had to prepare properly as well. I think it was only fair to them that they got their time with the players.

"It's been fractured from that point of view. We only got the lads back in training last weekend really.

"It was a big win for the lads to go down and win that match.

"So it will take a couple of days for the lads to get back in. But hopefully, they'll come back in fully focused.

"It's difficult. But it's nice when you're winning."

One of those - Eoghan O'Donnell - took the Man of the Match award for his expert marshalling of Conor McDonald.

"Certainly, there's been a massive improvement. Twelve months ago, he was taken off in the Kilkenny under-21 match," Cunningham pointed out.

"So there has been a marked improvement in these lads in a couple of months. I think he's now producing in the matches what we saw him do in training.

"He has a great attitude. And he has a lot of the things you'd be looking for. In one sense, Paul 's (Schutte) injury gave us a chance to have a look at him.

"So I suppose he's getting his chance and taking it and I suppose his confidence is coming from that."

Others, as Cunningham admitted, are making life awkward for him ahead of his team selection.

"You'd be looking for fellas to make the decisions hard to make," he outlined.

"Some of the under-21 lads put their hands up. Seán Treacy had a very good game in Wexford.

"The more of those guys you have, the better. And you'd be looking for some of the younger guys to come through as well.

"It's nice and it's difficult," concluded Cunningham.

"It's good to have these problems."

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