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Sunday 22 October 2017

New Dublin hurling boss will need to find "extra five percent"

Cunningham, Boland, Hogan and Kenny on list

Ger Cunningham is on the shortlist
Ger Cunningham is on the shortlist

THE big mystery over the identity of Anthony Daly's heir apparent could be solved in the next few days, with Dublin chiefs hoping to be in position to call a county board meeting next Monday when a new hurling manager could then be ratified.

In the meantime, Dublin chairman Andy Kettle reckons the Sky Blues remain that elusive "five percent" off the September benchmark after a summer during which last year's Leinster champions crashed to earth against the two eventual All-Ireland finalists, Kilkenny and Tipperary.

EVENTFUL

Daly subsequently called time on his eventful six-year reign, prompting weeks of speculation over who might succeed him, and whether the Dublin executive would prefer to look inside or outside the county.

As matters stand, all the indications are that the managerial search has been distilled down to a four-man race between Shay Boland, Liam Hogan, Ger Cunningham and Mattie Kenny.

All four bring recent pedigree to the table. Boland, the early frontrunner, managed the Dublin minors to consecutive All-Ireland final appearances in 2011 and '12 before taking over the U21s for a brief stint the following year.

Offaly native Hogan managed Ballyboden St Enda's during their historic five-in-a-row pomp, lording the Dublin SHC landscape from 2007 to 2011.

Cunningham is a Leeside goalkeeping legend with extensive management experience in Cork and beyond. He was coach and selector when Jimmy Barry Murphy's Rebels reached last year's All-Ireland final and has emerged as a strong candidate.

Kenny fulfilled a similar brief with Galway when they contested the previous year's All-Ireland decider; he resigned from Anthony Cunningham's management team a year ago and duly took over Cuala in the capital.

Michael Duignan has also been the subject to some speculation this week ... but it's unclear if the former Offaly All-Ireland winner and Sunday Game analyst is actually in the running and he could not be contacted yesterday.

Nor would Kettle be drawn on the shortlist but he did confirm that a number of "conversations" - as opposed to formal interviews - are taking place this week. There could be white smoke at the weekend, but he stressed: "Time is not the overriding factor - it's getting the proper person. So if it takes an extra couple of days to get that person, so be it."

Whoever he is faces a significant challenge crystallised by the quality of this year's All-Ireland final saga. Dublin, a stale shadow of last year's effervescent force, never came close to that intensity or sharpness earlier this summer.

"It's not going to be easy, because both Kilkenny and Tipperary brought hurling onto a new level over those two matches," Kettle suggested. "It showed the work that has to be done by other counties. By other counties I would include Galway, Wexford, ourselves, Cork, Clare, Limerick, Waterford - it's up to all of us to get up to that level.

"The tenacity and the skill in defending that Kilkenny showed last Saturday evening was just unbelievable. Sitting in the stand, you would feel that Tipperary had three clearcut chances of goals that were blocked out in a split-second."

GAP

Still, the Dublin chairman does not believe the gap is unbridgeable. "My theory, for what it's worth, is that those aforementioned counties are all doing 94 to 95pc of the same thing. It's the extra five percent that counties have to find," he surmised.

"That is what I would be hoping for - that whoever we appoint is able to get us up a couple of notches, those few percentage points, because it is that tight."

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