herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Spring movers taking their marks

Some players have made pressing cases for a starting spot in Dubs' league opener

Dublin's Eamonn Dillon celebrates his goal against Galway in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup semi-final (SPORTSFILE)
Dublin's Eamonn Dillon celebrates his goal against Galway in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup semi-final (SPORTSFILE)

Its a subject Ger Cunningham has visited a couple of times lately.

His familiarity, as the Dublin manager sees it now, with the city scene and his playing options now compared against last year.

"No comparison really," he admitted. "At that stage, I only had two months with the guys. I wouldn't have known them at all except for in name really.

"Now, after 12 months, a lot has happened. I've gotten to know them and they've gotten to know me."

Even in the absence of some 20 players, as Cunningham estimated on Saturday night, between injuries and ineligibility through college involvement, a cabal of players used the Walsh Cup wisely towards inclusion when Dublin go to Thurles on Saturday week for their NHL Division 1A opener.

CONOR DOOLEY

THE dropping of Alan Nolan, eyebrow-raising though it was from Cunningham, was probably more an endorsement of Dooley's (right) credentials than a critique of the popular St Brigid's goalkeeper's abilities.

Dooley is 6'5 and broad enough not to look lanky. He also possesses a creative repertoire of puck-outs.

He was at fault for both the goal Dublin conceded against Galway, when he miscontrolled a harmless dropping ball, and against Wexford on Saturday night, where he failed to impose his bulk sufficiently to beat Liam Óg McGovern to a long pass but made a handful of important saves too.

He won't take the number one jersey off his Ballyboden St Enda's clubmate, Gary Maguire, this year but a succession plan looks in place.

OISíN GOUGH

THE short version of the Oisín Gough story is that he opted out last year, unable to offer the full commitment required upon Cunningham's appointment.

Yet Gough had spent two years seeing no great action under Anthony Daly too, after a dramatic loss of form from his impressive early showings in senior-dom as one of the tidiest corner-backs around.

Cuala's run to the Leinster final - where Gough captained the Dublin winners from centre-back - has reignited both his interest in elite level hurling and his form.

With Peter Kelly out with a knee injury until at least the second half of the league and mid-March the stated return date for Paul Schutte, it's inconceivable that Gough wont begin sprung in Dublin's full-back line.

JOHNNY McCAFFREY

WHILE a natural, as opposed to intentional, move away from Daly's team is apparent now, McCaffrey is one of the pillars of that team making a strong early season case for himself this year.

He has been industrous and tidy at left half-back in each of Dublin's last three games, defending well and - of vital importance to Cunningham - has mostly used the ball thoughtfully and effectively.

With Shane Durkin and Liam Rushe both out of the Tipperary game on Saturday week in Semple Stadium, McCaffrey is odds-on to start the league in Cunningham's first 15 selection.

NIALL McMORROW

A favourite of Cunningham's for his mobility and skill set, McMorrow (right) would have been more present last summer only for a tendon injury in his hand.

Most of McMorrow's scant chances under Daly came as a corner-forward but his energy and touch around the middle contributed both directly and indirectly to Dublin's prolific January.

DAVID TREACY

HARDLY a breakthrough act but another to flourish on the back of Cuala's run.

Easily Dublin's best player against Galway in the Walsh Cup semi-final and got the Herald for Man of the Match against Wexford, too.

His three long-range points illustrated both his effectiveness from deep and an ability to contribute, even when Paul Ryan is on free-taking duties.

EAMONN DILLON

THE numbers say it all. Dillon scored 5-12 in this year's Walsh Cup, an improvement even on last winter when his form and fitness declined sharply upon the arrival of spring.

Quite apart from his tally, though, is his automatic inclination to drive at goal once in possession.

He, like David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan, David Treacy and Paul Ryan, appears to benefit hugely from the constantly rotating movements of the Dublin forwards.

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