herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

genial ger is a perfect fit

Cunningham will carry on Dalo's dynasty

THE odd day Kevin O'Donoghue still finds himself looking through the shoe-box. It was given to him by his Dad, Seamus, the day he left the family home.

It's packed with cuttings and pictures. The story of his hurling journey.

A proud adventure. Playing for the Craobh and the Dubs.

"There's clippings there going back to my school team, Scoil Chiaráin. It brings back lovely memories."

Kevin has taken a break from the Craobh chambers for a little spell. He managed the intermediate hurlers for three years before spending three years with the seniors.

He's living in Lusk now. He has a young family. He's enjoying the opportunity of seeing his son, Ross, playing for Tower's.

"It's great that he's out there playing with his school pals, but in a few years when he gets good, I'll be bringing him to the Craobh," smiles Kevin.

There, Ross will hear plenty of stories about his father who won four Dublin Senior Hurling Championships and seven Division 1 League medals.

"I'm Craobh to the heart and to the bone. I had great times there.

"Such wonderful people. What we achieved was great. I was lucky to play with such fantastic players.

HELPING

"I can recall coming onto the senior team as a young fella, and the established lads helping me so much.

"I recently put up a picture of the 1998 championship winning team on Facebook and I got almost 400 people commenting on it.

"It went on for around three days with people posting messages. It brought back a lot of memories."

Kevin played as a forward before moving to full-back in the latter chapters.

"I replaced a good man at full-back, Aidan O'Toole, who had retired. He's now the club chairman. He's doing a terrific job. He's a hard working man."

Craobh have their splendid base at Clonshaugh. The turf there was made for hurling.

And as the evenings begin to stretch even more, Kevin will be back in Donnycarney, helping to mould another generation of Craobh hurlers.

"I'm going to give a dig out with the under-16s. Our minors are Division 1, and the plan is to try and get the 16s up to that level."

Kevin played at all the grades for Dublin - 15, 16, minor, U21 and senior.

He compliments the efforts of his managers - Jimmy Gray, Michael O'Grady and Marty Morris.

He recalls the tough training sessions of John Thompson.

"He really put us through the mill. Michael O'Grady has done a lot for Dublin hurling. He came in and changed things. I thought he did a brilliant job when he came in as manager."

Kevin has been impressed with Ger Cunningham. "He's a good man. It's terrific for Dublin hurling to have a man of his calibre.

"He is doing a fine job. I have spoken to a few people and they only have good things to say about him.

"He treats everybody with respect, and he's running a first-class show. I have met him. He's sound.

"I'd be optimistic. He has a young enough side there. It's a matter of buying in to what the manager is saying.

"Ger will set high standards. And the players have to believe that they can achieve them."

Kevin followed every bounce of the sliotar during Anthony Daly's days.

"He nearly got them into the All-Ireland final. They were so unlucky against Cork.

"The aim now has to be to get back to where the teams was two or three years ago.

"Tipperary is a tough one to start with in the League, but they are all tough at that level.

"We need to step up. And I think the lads will do that. There's good talent emerging in the county. So many people have put in the work."

Despite the debate of getting rid of the pre-season competitions, Kevin feels they have their place.

"I'm in favour of the Walsh Cup. It's solid preparation for the season. It allows the management to give game-time to the players.

"Last Saturday you had the game against Galway in Croke Park. The experience of playing there so early in the season has to be beneficial.

"It was a good, close match. Galway won it in the end, but Dublin will take plenty of positives from the game.

"It will give the lads the incentive to get back there for the championship come the summer.

"No doubt, Ger will have his game-plan all set out for the year ahead and we'll have a good season.

LUCK

"The squad will put in the hard work. But you need that bit of luck too. Hard work and good luck can take you a long way.

"It was beneficial to put in such an encouraging display against Galway, especially in Croke Park. That can only increase the confidence."

Kevin has his own recollections of Croke Park. "I played in the old Croke Park and in the new Croke Park. It's some stadium now."

And like the rest of his career, all the steps on the sacred sod are safely tucked away in the shoe-box.

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