Saturday 18 November 2017

'Ger right to give youth its chance'

Attitude the key for Dublin wannabes

Dublin hurler Chris Crummey, who has shown excellent early season form for Ger Cunningham’s side in their Walsh Cup campaign Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin hurler Chris Crummey, who has shown excellent early season form for Ger Cunningham’s side in their Walsh Cup campaign Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin U21 hurling manager, Joe Fortune, and his players before the start of the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U21HC Final against Wexford Photo: Sportsfile

It was in O'Moore Park in 2012 after a defeat to Laois in the Walsh Cup when Anthony Daly rummaged through the debris of a wreck of an afternoon and found just one sparkling fragment of gratification.

It was Danny Sutcliffe.

Then freshly-minted from minor, having played with a fervency and zip completely apart from the wet, welly-footed trudge of his new team Dublin team-mates.

Only for he wore the same blue jersey, you'd have sworn he got off a different bus or at least, had been spared whatever January horrors had been inflicted upon the rest in the days beforehand.


Of Sutcliffe - and Sutcliffe only - Daly sighed, he could be grateful on the wet, grey road back to west Clare.

Last Sunday, his successor, Ger Cunningham was in Portlaoise too, examining - amongst other things - alternatives in his team for the now temporarily departed St Jude's player.

This side, including a litter of cubs, had won their third Walsh Cup game on the spin.

"I think attitude is a massive thing," says Dublin under-21 manager, Joe Fortune of the characteristics that might separate those who make it and those who don't this year.

"I see so many guys who are talented at minor level.

"I could have told you at 18 that (Liam) Rushe and Peter Kelly and (David) Treacy were going to be outstanding players for Dublin. You can see it."

Nine of Fortune's U21 panel are co-habiting Cunningham's senior ranks.

As many as 14 of the team that were narrowly beaten by Kilkenny last year in a belter of a Leinster U21HC quarter-final in Parnell Park, are currently amongst that bloated panel.

It bodes well.

Because certainly, the perception had hardened that the gush of prospective senior hurling talent had abated to just a drip.

Against that, some in Dublin felt Daly was too cautious or too loyal in his last couple of seasons to bring through alternatives.

And that Cunningham, new and thus uneducated in the local scene, only really had Daly's notes to go on in his first season.

"When Daly came on board, he had those lads from the 2005 and '07 (minor) teams," Fotune points out. "He brought those fellas in. When Anthony came in, there were two successful minor teams to work with. But there was a bit of a dip until 2011, when Shay's (Boland) team came along.

"But what people forget is that the main men on that team were Ciarán Kilkenny and Cormac Costello.

"So when people say Day stayed a bit too close to lads in the last few years, he didn't really have the option of picking the best players coming through.

"People said Daly was too settled. He wasn't. Daly took the best players who were available to him.

"Because he was there for six years, people forget that he took Rushe and Kelly and Treacy in as 19 year-olds. Brought them straight in."

That 2011 minor team was, in effect, massacred by football.

Costello, Kilkenny, Eric Lowndes, Emmett Ó Conghaile and Conor McHugh all spurned hurling in its favour.

This year, Con O'Callaghan is a loss to Cunningham but these dual dilemmas are being cut off at source now.

Still, Fortune preaches caution. There is, he points out, nothing so intoxicating as the perceived potential of youth.


No team flaw or limitation that doesn't have an untested and therefore, un-failed fresh-faced alternative.

"Derek McGrath did it at Waterford but he did it with an All-Ireland winning team," he points out. "That's the difference.

"It's much more obvious to take a fella in when they've come from a team that's won something.

"You have to earn your crust first. The likes of Chris Crummey and Mark Schutte are pushing on now.

"They had a couple of years under Daly when people were asking why weren't they playing but they developed and improved and now Dublin are seeing the benefits of it.

"Daly minded them and brought them on. And people get kind of blinded by youth.

"There's no point shoving them in when they're not ready for it. They can't go straight in.

"The odd one can," Fortune concludes.

"The Austin Gleesons can or the Danny Suctliffes can. But that's it," stressea the Dublin U21 manager.

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