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Saturday 10 December 2016

Roche's Point: Your leader must stay on the pitch

Liam Rushe
Liam Rushe

FOR two famous sons of that iconic Cork club, St Finbarr's, Semple Stadium was a lonely place to be last Sunday

 In his first season with Dublin, Ger Cunningham fell short of Waterford's benchmark by five points. A couple of hours later, Jimmy Barry-Murphy saw Cork beaten out the Thurles gate by a rampaging Galway.

The least painful way to exit? Good question: both are out and surely that is all that matters?

By the same token, Dublin might appear in better shape going forward. For all JBM's protestations that he "can't wait 'til next year", Cork hurling appears to be going backwards - and without the conveyor belt to arrest that slide any year soon.

Like most team sports, however, hurling is a "funny old game" that can produce dramatic oscillations from one year to the next. Did anyone see Clare as All-Ireland winners at the end of Davy Fitzgerald's debut campaign in 2012, their season having ended in mid-July?

BLOSSOM

Cunningham now finds himself in a similar position ... the only difference is that he lacks the same crop of burgeoning young talent primed to blossom on the senior stage.

Dublin have some gifted young hurlers who can make a bigger impact; but do they have enough of them, especially given how football has snared several of the best?

Put it this way: Dublin's two most effective performers on Sunday were David O'Callaghan and Ryan O'Dwyer. Neither qualifies as a spring chicken: Dotsy will be 32 in October while O'Dwyer has just turned 29.

Conal Keaney is older again (33 in September) and the way his season tapered off against Limerick and Waterford will inevitably raise questions about his future. Which would be a shame, for someone who has given so much to both codes; but then for every thirtysomething, your birth cert becomes an issue after a run of poor form.

TWENTYSOMETHING

Truth is, if Dublin are to make real progress as opposed to the fitful promise of 2015, it is the twentysomething generation who must drive them on.

That means a more sustained performance level from Danny Sutcliffe, who has all the gifts to be the leader of their attack.

It also requires some soul-searching from Liam Rushe, who must address a tendency to lash out and think later.

Rushe is Dublin's real leader, so it behoves him to be on the pitch all of the time. He should have been sent off against Cork in 2013, at a time when that All-Ireland semi-final was in the melting pot. He was rightly sent off against Waterford ... just because the cause was lost doesn't mean you can surrender discipline in such a glaring fashion, no matter what the level of frustration or even provocation.

Next year will also require more from Ger Cunningham. This season he chopped and changed several players (Rushe and Keaney included) with distinctly mixed results. Dublin bowed out in better shape than last year - but adrift of the standard they set in 2011 and 2013.

Now for the hard part ...

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