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Monday 18 December 2017

The perfect opening for latest Dubs era

Durkin and Keaney star in 12-point hiding of beaten All-Ireland finalists in Parnell Park

Gearoid Ryan, Tipperary, in action against Colin Cronin and Ryan O'Dwyer, right, Dublin
Gearoid Ryan, Tipperary, in action against Colin Cronin and Ryan O'Dwyer, right, Dublin
Michael Carton, Dublin, in action against Gearoid Ryan
Conal Keaney

All told, Ger Cunningham's first League match as Dublin manager probably couldn't have gone much better.

A 12-point (2-20 to 0-14) win over Tipperary in Parnell Park, two points on the board in the tightest of Leagues with two home games still to play and a free shot at a depleted (though not necessarily much weakened) Kilkenny next Sunday.

"Yeah, great start," Cunningham reflected.

"But this is the first match of the season. The ultimate challenge (is) next week going down to Nowlan Park.

"But we're trying to build a team, trying to build a fortress here," he explained.

"We have three games in Dublin; two here, one in Croke Park.

"It's always important for your League prospects to win your home matches. So very happy overall."

As a contest, yesterday's was heavily lopsided and in hindsight, perhaps understandably so.

In one corner, you had a Dublin team in fluid form and with a new manager and thus, an entire panel with something to prove against one for whom nothing pre July is of remote importance.

Ergo, 'Bubbles' ODwyer was about the only Premier player to leave Donnycarney with any credit.

Eamon O'Shea insisted he was "reasonably optimistic" making the trip from Tipp, reasoning "we've a good bit of work done," though despondent is certainly too strong a word to describe his post match demeanour.

His team shot lots of bad, bad wides but the disparity in motivation was quite visible.

For Cunnigham, a large patch of his satisfaction was attributable to the adriot performances of some players occupying reasonably unfamiliar shirts.

None more so than Conal Keaney (a close rival to Shane Durkin for Man of the Match) who hurled some of a herculean game at left half back.

"He's a very good hurler," Cunningham offerd.

"I don't think he'd have a problem adapting to the new positions we're trying - not just Conal, but we have a few people moving around to see if they can try and help to develop the team.

adapted

"They all did their bit. I wouldn't just highlight Conal but in fairness, for his first inter-county match at wing-back, he did very well."

Ditto Michael Carton at full-back.

"I think he has adapted very well," Cunningham praised.

"He has had no issue at full-back. Strong guy, good hurler, good physical presence and I think he did very well in there today.

Liam Rushe to full-forward, meanwhile, was in some ways a less resounding success, yet weirdly, perhaps the most rewarding.

Early on, he cut a frustrated figure, in part because of Paul Curran's borderline fouling and partly, through a lack of involvement.

And several times, when Rushe did manage to wrangle free to contest a delivery, it hopped out of his clutches.

Yet he was the man mostly responsible for Dublin's two goals.

In the 18th minute, Rushe collected a Peter Kelly delivery after Colm Cronin intercepted a Darren Gleeson and turned swiftly, brilliantly delaying his pass to the onrushing Eamonn Dillon, who fired home to open a six point Dublin lead.

Rushe hit a sweet point himself in the second half but the most gratifying play was his last, bulldozing his way through to fire home a goal of his own.

At that stage, TIpp were truly buried and save for a minor flurry of four points midway through the second half - and the performance of O'Dwyer when brought further out the pitch - the day was something of a write-off.

For Cunningham, the afterglow of a sharp performance featuring a raft of fine individual performances should last only as long as his team begin getting their heads around a trip to Nowlan Park.

"I hope this sends out a message to the Dublin supporters to come out and support the team," he reflected.

"But good start."

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