Wednesday 26 September 2018

Rebels unlikey to show sympathy to Lee legend

Cork goalkeeper Conor Nash
Cork goalkeeper Conor Nash

At his unveiling as Dublin manager, Ger Cunningham was asked whether his belated arrival to the inter-county manager bullpen hadn't panned out quite as anticipated.

"I suppose I wouldn't have thought that I'd be sitting here as Dublin manager and not Cork manager," he admitted then.

It is presumed that Cunningham wanted the Cork job in 2006, when John Allen left and the succession pattern led directly to him.

It is also widely believed that Cunningham became a victim of the power struggle between the Cork county board and the players at that time, and that his perceived closeness to those same players saw him overlooked for Gerald McCarthy.

Cunningham kept his counsel, though spoke later about the snub in the 2008 book 'Blood Brothers: The Inside Story of the Cork Hurlers 1996 - 2008'.

"I never went on the record at the time saying I was interested in the job," he explained to author, Michael Moynihan.

"But having been involved for a couple of years, if the opportunity came your way…was I prepared for it? Did I want it?

"I couldn't really say, because you can't really assume anything when you're involved with the Cork team.

"And when the call didn't come, I never really pursued it to the situation where I put everything in place to be in a position to be appointed.

"But when the call didn't come irrespective of having played for twenty years and having been a selector for a couple of years, not even to get phone call to say 'we're going a different road' … that would be fine.

"Anyone who puts his name forward, you have to expect knocks as well.

"What was disappointing was the six or eight weeks around that time, the talk and the assumption that you might take over created huge pressure.

"A lot of people assumed you were taking over and it felt hugely stressful."

Saturday will be his fourth time managing Dublin against Cork, twice in Croke Park - where his most defining moments as a Rebel were played out - and twice, as like this Saturday, in Páirc Uí Rinn.

Last year, Cork cut Dublin at the heels of a victory that would have put them into a clash with a Wexford team they had already hammered a month previously for an All-Ireland quarter-final spot.

They also stuck 0-34 on Dublin in his second League match as manager, just 18 months on from being the chief strategist in Jimmy Barry-Murphy's management team when they lost an All-Ireland final replay to Clare.

Cork have inflicted a couple of painful ones so far on Cunningham so whatever he's expecting from them on Saturday night, it's not sympathy.

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