herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

ger's gems are vips

Former Dublin boss Kelleher calls for hurlers to get names in lights as main billing

HUMPHREY Kelleher insists it's about time the city fathers started putting the small ball into the big-time.

On the gala Croke Park evenings, he'd like to see the Dublin hurlers top-the-bill …. for once.

"Why are the Dublin hurlers on the under-card. Why are they always the curtain-raiser," wonders the former county manager.

"It happened again on Saturday night. You had the hurlers in the National League quarter-final and the footballers playing Derry in a Group match, yet it was the footballers who got top billing.

"People say that Dublin is a football county and all of that. That's understandable, but I think it's about time that the Dublin County Board took a look at putting the hurlers on as the main event for a change.

"Nothing against the football. The team has done so well in the last few years. But so too have the hurlers.

"They have a right to be the stars of the show.

"They would deserve such status. The Dublin County Board should definitely consider it."

Humphrey spent two years in charge of the Dubs. Tommy Naughton then took the baton before the arrival of the Clare champion, Anthony Daly.

Dalo led the Dubs to National League and Leinster glory, and almost to an All-Ireland final.

His road was helped by all the work that had gone on before in a county that was keen on a hurling revolution.

Humphrey has seen the steady improvement over the years.

The Daly news brought cheer to the capital. And now he says that Ger Cunningham has enhanced the scenery.

"Ger is doing a tremendous job. He has brought it on again.

"The team has developed, even in the short time that he is in the job. They have added more power and strength.

"They are playing a lovely, crisp type of hurling. Their first touch is sharper. I think the stick-work has come on. They are not relying on any one player. There's strength in depth there. It's terrific that you can bring a quality player like Paul Ryan in off the bench. Cian Boland and others too."

Humphrey was impressed with the performance against Limerick that earned Dublin a Division 1 semi-final spot against Cork (Nowlan Park, Sunday April 19, 2.0).

PATIENCE

"They worked very hard. They played with patience. They weren't jumping in.

"And they took some marvellous scores. The high scoring has been a feature of the campaign.

"Twenty five points is super. And it takes hard work to get into the positions to take those scores."

Humphrey applauded the contribution of Mark Schutte.

"He had a fabulous game. He took some excellent scores, and not from the easiest of positions.

"He's a wonderful athlete. He has such pace. And he can win the high ball.

"He's also two-handed. He can strike off either side. He reminds me of fellas like Joe Cooney and Kevin Broderick.

"They made life difficult for their markers because you didn't know which way they were going to turn and have a go.

"I felt Mark's brother, Paul, had a cracking match. He's so solid. They are two first-class hurlers.

"Of course their Dad, Karl, was a fine hurler himself. And then there's the deep family pedigree with the Holdens and all of that."

The ex-county chief also highlighted the donation of Niall McMorrow.

"It was his best game so far for Dublin. He has come on so much. His work-rate was massive.

"But, as I said, so was that of all the lads. People like Ryan O'Dwyer, who was very effective. And it's great to see David Treacy in such good form. He has been very unlucky with injury. Young Chris Crummey of Lucan did very well. He has a good physical presence. He has plenty of heart and good hurling ability.

"He can command the centre half-back position, especially with a player like Conal Keaney alongside him.

"Conal is doing very well in the half-back line. He is such a quality player. His first touch is so sure and he can deliver a good, low ball. He is always looking up. He has the vision.

"People might wonder is Liam Rushe in the right place, but he's a guy that will cause plenty of problems for defences."

Even in the warm-up, the Dubs carried a hungry look. They took the memory of the Cork match and sent it spinning over the Hill into Clonliffe College.

"Dublin could have won by more. They were unlucky not to have scored two or three more goals.

"But the one concern I had was that they gave away too many cheap frees, and young Shane Dowling is a top free-taker.

"The key is make the opposition work hard for their points. Don't do anything silly. Keep it simple. Like Kilkenny."

Sharing a cup of Barry's with Jimmy Barry Murphy for a League semi-final is ideal for the spring-time Blues. "Getting a match like that in mid-April is really beneficial. Last year, there was an 11-week gap between Dublin's last League game and their first one in the Championship.

"I think things are looking good. Going on the League standings, we are now in the top four in the country.

"But the big question is whether we will be in top four in the Championship."

The other Division 1 League semi-final is between Tipperary and Waterford.

And the former Waterford player warns to beware of the March musings that ask are Kilkenny the team they were and ponders what the likes of Clare and Galway will offer in the summer?

It's only March. And there's enough debate to fill a month of The Vincent Browne Show.

Early days yet. But good days . . . for the Dubs.

I think it's about time that the Dublin County Board took a look at putting the hurlers on as the main event.

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