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GER CUNNINGHAM

GER CUNNINGHAM

SPORTSFILE

GER CUNNINGHAM

IN Parnell Park yesterday at the media unveiling of the new Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham, Andy Kettle, the county board chairman, announced that Dublin had "hit the jackpot in securing Ger's services".

Maybe.

But it was easy to surmise Cunningham himself had scored heavily in recruiting his backroom team.

In particular, the presence of Shay Boland as one of three selectors represents a significant coup for the new man who, after four weeks of toil, has constructed an impressive support structure for the Dublin hurlers for an anticipated three years.

Boland, the former Dublin minor and Under 21 boss, was one of the candidates interviewed for the manager's job last month and thus seemed like an unlikely contender for a lesser role.

"In fairness to him, Shay is a passionate Dublin hurling man," Cunningham explained yesterday, optimistic yet suitably cautious in his first public outing as Anthony Daly's successor.

"Obviously having been involved at minor and Under 21 level. We had a couple of chats and hopefully I convinced him that getting involved would be the right thing to do.

"I'm delighted he's involved because obviously I'm going to need guys here in Dublin who know the scene - because they would probably know it a lot better than I would - so I think Shay fits that bill perfectly."

Gearóid Ó Riain, who managed Kilmacud Crokes to their 2012 Dublin SHC win and almost pulled off a win over Oulart-The Ballagh in the Leinster Championship, is the other Dublin native selector and flanked Cunningham at the press conference.

Between the two, they already possess an exhaustive dossier of potential and perhaps ignored talent from within the county, although it was hard to tell by what he said if Cunningham had been excited by the recent county championship fare.

"It takes a little while to get to know the level of standard there. They were very competitive matches," he said.

Impressed

"Very close and very competitive. I was certainly impressed by some guys that were outside the panel who played quite well."

Tommy Dunne, who has trained the team sporadically over the past two years, is the remaining link to the outgoing set-up.

The issue of training facilities, so long the bane of Daly's Dublin managerial existence and a worn-down thread in his recently published autobiography, 'Dalo', seems to have been resolved to the hurlers' benefit.

Having previously trained in Bray Emmets (although, as Daly clarifies in his tome, the ground is in Wicklow but the pitch itself lies over the Dublin border), the squad will now train at the same DCU facility at St Clare's currently utilised by Jim Gavin's footballers.

The link with DCU will be strengthened by the appointment of Ken Robinson as strength and conditioning coach.

Caroline Currid (right), whose association with the Dublin footballers (2011), Tyrone (2008) and the Tipperary hurlers (2010), helped each land All-Ireland titles, will link up as a performance coach.

Naturally, the issue of Dublin's dual players arose but as Cunningham had yet to meet the current squad, let alone contact any 'outsiders', he was never likely to have any definitive answers on the topic.

Arrangement

He didn't rule out the possibility of individuals cohabiting both panels and was never likely to - but Jim Gavin already effectively has - and given both teams open their respective 2015 Leinster campaigns on the same day in the same ground, the chances of such an arrangement remain utterly remote.

"Dual is difficult, there's no doubt about that," he agreed. "You can see how difficult it is. But a lot of those Dublin guys have All-Ireland medals in football, it would be great to see them get All-Ireland medals in hurling."

Predictably, Cunningham was disinclined to announce specific targets or time-frames but, clearly, he saw enough potential in the group to agree to the role in the first place.

"Some of the best players in the country play for Dublin so the nucleus of the talent is there, that's the challenge we see as the backroom team to try and raise the level all round and try to get back up to 2013 level and beyond."

He was, somewhat controversially passed over for the Cork manager's spot after John Allen stood down and Gerald McCarthy was appointed, a move that further incensed the then Rebel panel in their seemingly never-ending feud with their own county board. Yet he was back under Jimmy Barry-Murphy, working as a selector, coach and all-round right-hand man for the first two years of his second coming, before walking away after Cork's loss to Clare in last year's All-Ireland final replay.

Thereafter, he was strong linked with the Limerick job vacated by Allen but the post went to another Corkman, Donal O'Grady.

"I suppose I wouldn't have thought that I'd be sitting here as Dublin manager and not Cork manager," he admitted yesterday, before adding: "I think it's a great compliment that Dublin have put the next three years into my hands and I'm looking forward to repaying that trust for them."

Asked whether the length of the term - a county board pre-requisite - had made the offer any more or less appealing, Cunningham said: "Well I think there's a degree of certainty and security there. You need to start looking at the future and bringing on some of the younger guys right through on to the team and it's going to take a while to get to know them.

"So I think the three years is sensible from the point of view of having that length of time to get to know the lads and build a successful team."

Competitive

"Dublin are a seriously competitive team at the moment, they're in the top six teams. They've been Leinster winners, National League winners, All-Ireland semi-finalists over the last number of years.

"I see it as a great challenge and a great opportunity," Cunningham concluded, "and I'm really looking forward to working with the team I've put together, I'm delighted with the backroom team and I think the lads accept they're putting their reputations on the line as well."


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