Tuesday 25 October 2016

Ger Cunningham: I didn't see Galway ambush coming

Dublin boss admits his side would have been better off protecting full-back line

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham

IT’S the Monday after the massacre before, and suffice to say Ger Cunningham would rather be somewhere – anywhere – else than a pre-arranged media gig.

The vantage point of 48 hours since the explosion of Dublin’s summer hasn’t dragged him much closer to getting his head completely around the turn of events in Tullamore and when he says “hindsight is a great thing,” you get the feeling Cunningham’s regrets run deep.

That Dublin left a three-man full-back line – one of whom, Paul Schutte, didn’t look entirely fit – all alone in large green swathes of space with a potentially devastating Galway full-forward line has been held aloft as their most obvious and damaging failing.

“Possibly, yeah, maybe from the start, really from the throw-in that we should have been looking at it,” Cunningham says now.

“But, at the same time, I think you need to see how the game pans out as well.

“If we had got a goal in the first minute you’d look on things differently from that point of view.

“From our point of view, we’ve played the same system all through the League and all through the matches.

“Maybe lessons were learned and if it’s something that happens again we might look at it.”

His former protégé, Donal Óg Cusack, and Dublin’s former manager, Anthony Daly, had their say on The Sunday Game, though neither arrived at a conclusive reason for how the team – or any team – could go from matching Galway score-for-score a week previous in Croke Park to the unmerciful obliteration in Tullamore.

Daly called Dublin’s setup “suicidal,” and Cusack pointed to some of the body language on display as perhaps being symptomatic of an internal malaise.

 “We had a planned move, which we did after five minutes, but we didn’t expect to be eight or nine points down at that stage,” Cunningham added,

“I think if we’d got the penalty, if Dave (Treacy) had got that it might have settled us a bit, it would have been a lift for everybody and brought us back to five points, but again, it’s ifs and buts.”

Any hint during the week that such a performance was coming?

“No. I didn’t see it. I was probably a bit disappointed with our display in Croke Park.

“I felt we could have played a bit better. You do need to take a step up from league to championship.

“We stepped it up a bit but not as much as we needed to and last week we weren’t able to match Galway’s intensity.

“They were extremely sharp and had a hunger for the ball. At different stages all through the match there were two or three Galway fellas to one Dublin fella.

“I think it helps if you get a start and take off – you’re eight or nine points up after 10 minutes – it allows you that extra bit of freedom.”

So what now?

Dublin have suffered some pretty damaging defeats in the past and turned themselves ‘round, though arguably none worse than Saturdays.

“On Saturday night we hadn’t much chance and wouldn’t have been in the mood to start thinking about those things,” Cunningham said when asked what direction he intended to take the rebuilding work.


They have a three-in-four chance of drawing one or other of Munster’s beaten heavyweights (Westmeath are the other possibility) in two week’s time. Not a scenario conducive to a gradual healing.

“It’s as tough as you’re going to get. It’s a direction we hadn’t planned on going.

“We hoped to get to a Leinster final and try and win that and go through the front door. But we are where we are and we have to accept that’s the way it’s going to be.”

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