Cunningham makes plea for patience as his young guns battle against drop
Ger Cunningham has made a plea for patience as his Sky Blue greenhorns battle against the grim spectre of relegation from the top flight of the Allianz Hurling League.
A third defeat in four league outings, away to Clare last Sunday, has left Dublin bottom of Division 1A ahead of their final regulation outing against Kilkenny.
But Cunningham, whose radical youth policy this year has prompted much polarised debate in the capital, believes that his young guns deserve to be given time to find their feet at this elite level.
"It's all about patience," the Corkman said, as he reflected on their two-point reversal in Ennis. "And to reinforce that message that these guys, they're the best young hurlers in Dublin.
"They're coming through having had success at minor level last year, at Leinster level. So, give them a chance to come through.
"They're getting used to playing with other players, with more experienced players. And that takes time."
Parnell Park victory over the Cats, on Sunday week, is the minimum requirement if Dublin are to avoid a relegation play-off - although even that may not be enough, depending on results elsewhere that afternoon.
While Cunningham has stressed the importance of allowing his rookies to bed in, clearly his own patience during matches is finite.
Donal Burke has made a rapid transition from minor last year to senior this spring, starting all four NHL matches to date ... but on Sunday he was replaced after just 32 minutes.
Fellow minor graduate Cian O'Sullivan lasted even less time on the Cusack Park pitch: he entered the fray as a 50th minute sub only to be himself replaced just 14 minutes later.
Burke had left a significant scoring mark both in victory over Cork (0-8, three from play) and in defeat to Waterford (1-7, 7f) ... both he also missed three gettable frees against the Deise and another against Clare.
His weekend replacement, Chris Bennett, converted three of his six deadball attempts (albeit one miss from distance and into the wind fell short).
Cunningham conceded afterwards that Dublin's free-taking reliability has been an issue during their last two defeats to Waterford and Clare, adding: "But that's the game, we've got to work on that."
Yet he stuck to his overall theme about letting his young guns grow into their jerseys.
"We're all the time speaking to them about how much they're learning. It's all about learning, what they can take from game to game," the Corkman said.
"They see now the standard that they must try and get to - from a physicality point of view, from a fitness point of view, from a hurling point of view, from a game sense point of view. So there's a lot of things that they have to learn.
"We're giving them every encouragement, trying to introduce them as best we can, giving them a taste of it here and there. Because it takes time."
He added: "We talk to them all the time - individually, collectively. Again, we have to have patience ... they need to be given a chance, they need to see where they're at. They need to find their feet."