Sunday 23 September 2018

Liam Rushe switch wisest move for Dubs ahead of Laois clash

Cunningham has plenty to ponder over as Blues set about rebuilding summer dreams

Liam Rushe
Liam Rushe
Ger Cunningham

NOT that it was any consolation at the time, but Ger Cunningham probably solved one selection poser for good on the day his honeymoon as Dublin manager ended.

Liam Rushe's brief return to his familiar centre-back position for the concluding 21 minutes of the first half of Dublin's crushing defeat to Galway is something Cunningham has revisited and most likely, will be the spot in which the Dublin co-captain starts on Saturday evening when his team go to Portlaoise attempting to construct something like a decent season from the rubble of the replay disaster against Galway.

"He'll give you every at centre-back or at full-forward, it's just a case of where he's needed most," says Joe Fortune, this year's Dublin U21 boss and a former manager of Rushe with the county's minor team and the DIT Fitzgibbon Cup side.

"He causes massive problems in the forward line too. People who don't know hurling say he's not scoring that much, but he causes serious trouble when he's up there."

Ger Cunningham

Ger Cunningham

In the context of the short-term and Saturday's visit to Portlaoise, Cunningham should be thankful that a quick-fix is so readily available.

A Dublin defence with Rushe at six, Peter Kelly restored to full-back after his hamstring injury, and their stickiest man-marker, Paul Schutte, fit again, looks eminently more secure than the six sitting ducks left exposed to the elements and a ravenous Galway inside three in their last public appearance on that day in O'Connor Park, Tullamore.

In a recent challenge match with Waterford, Rushe began and ended at centre-back.

Conal Keaney started alongside in the half-back line but moved to full-forward and like Rushe, has probably now found a permanent home for however longer Dublin's summer lasts.

Since the Galway game, Cunningham has drafted in a large number of this year's U21 panel, players like Con O'Callaghan, James Madden, Fiontán McGiobb and Seán Treacy, though it's difficult to see any making a surge towards the team this year.

Others, such as Seánie McClelland and Paul Winters, decided to set off for America but Cunningham will be eager now to get as many players with real potential into his setup as possible, even if their immediate relevance is not particularly obvious.

Tactically too, the Dublin manager may now be tempted to embark in a different direction.

He may just conclude that the surest way to avoid the nuclear disasters of Dublin's first half against Galway and their second against Cork in the league semi-final, is a systematic - rather than personnel - overhaul.


In his role as manager of the UCC FItzgibbon Cup team, Cunningham has come into close contact with many of the Waterford tyros currently blunting the strongest attack divisions in hurling and as a hurling modernist, will surely have paid close attention.

But similarly, he must now find a way to squeeze more from his split personality of an attack, most immediately against a Laois defence that started with five men across their full-back line against Galway.

As such, players like Cian Boland, Colm Cronin and Eamon Dillon may see more involvement to add some pace and goal threat to an attack featuring individuals who have enjoyed both brilliant and anonymous days.

For all that though, it may be that the most important rebuilding job is the one yet to be completed inside the Dublin dressing-room.

Cunningham's candidacy for the Dublin job was constructed on a reputation for firstly, being a good and inventive coach and secondly, a noted tactician.

In Dublin though, the ability to motivate and man-manage a cabal of players to whom there are no depth of serious alternatives is just as - if not more - important.


dublin hurling

In a recent challenge match with Waterford, Rushe began and ended at centre-back.

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