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Sunday 11 December 2016

New-look dubs plan to enjoy summer of evolution

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham. Pic: Sportsfile

Whatever angle you look back at them from, Dublin's two victories over Limerick last year were of essential and basic importance.

The first, at the exact stage of the league as the pair find themselves crossing swords again tomorrow in Parnell Park (7.0), gave Ger Cunningham a win in Croke Park to hold aloft as proof that his new team could do just that (win in headquarters).

The second was, in hindsight, important in a sort of grave sense.

To not make an All-Ireland quarter-final, having undergone a summer of sporadic turbulence, wouldn't have reflected well on this team's evolution or indeed, it's ability to evolve.

"It was a big plus from a psychological point of view in that we came back in a game that we were struggling in and won it," Cunningham told The Herald, referring to the latter. "So it was great for their confidence."

Now?

There's hardly such serious consequences either way tomorrow night in Parnell Park, though the continuation of this year's league campaign would constitute further progress.

There's also the matter of Dublin's unbeaten run in Parnell Park, a hugely storied nexus stretching back to when Cú Chulainn played a bit of minor for the county.

Encouraging

"We set our sights on staying in Division 1A," Cunningham admits now.

"And if you stay in Division 1A, you're going to be in the quarter-finals.

"We recovered from a poor start, which was encouraging. So from the point of view of where we wanted to go … it's just keeping it going now.

"And keeping that consistency. So that's the first element of it out of the way.

"Everything now going forward is going to be knock-out in some shape or form for the rest of the season."

Spirits, heightened by an almost unheralded spin of three league wins on the bounce, have since been reminded of their own sobriety by Kilkenny, even if defeat in Nowlan Park two Sundays back had no real damage for Dublin.

"We were disappointed with bits of the display," Cunningham acknowledges. "Because we said all along, consistency is the name of the game. And trying to be competitive all the time.

"And there were aspects of the game in the first half that the players themselves and we weren't happy with. Knowing we had another game to look forward to, that it wasn't a cut-throat knock-out situation that it is now…yeah, it might have contributed to it," he adds.

"But we'll be looking for a better performance in the things we look for on Saturday night. Because there is a knock-out element to it now."

Whatever about the brass tacks of results, Cunningham has also worked more quickly towards the settlement of a team.

All last year, his starting alignment remained in a state of flux, with significant positional and personnel change still taking place into the middle of summer.

"They're beginning to understand what we're looking for, from a management point of view," the Dublin boss reflects now.

"We've tried to give people chances. Players have got chances to express themselves and put their hands up for selection.

"Conor Dooley has got some game time. As has Eoghan O'Donnell. Oisín Gough has come back in. Fionntan Mac Gib has played. Darragh O'Connell…Seánie McGrath - there's lots of fellas there, so there's a bit of a turnover from last year.

"So we're just trying to get a situation where we have a good squad to pick from. And every position has players fighting for it.

"We went out and looked at those players on the periphery an in the underage squads.

Evolution

"We looked at the Dublin Championship last year. We looked at the Dublin under-21s. So we saw players who we thought could contribute to the setup and add to it.

"It's evolution. There's players training hard that deserve a chance. So it's a win/win for everyone, once that happens.

"Hopefully, that can continue into the summer," the Cork native adds.

"But we're just focusing on Saturday. If we can win, we can get to a league semi-final. That's just the immediate focus."

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