Dublin need to be at their best to deal with Kilkenny, insists Anthony Cunningham

John Knox

Reporter:

John Knox

Email:

@kilkennypeoplesport

Dublin need to be at their best to deal with Kilkenny, insists Anthony Cunningham

Dublin is an equal opportunities county for Gaelic games.
People looking in from the outside might assume their majestic three in-a-row All-Ireland winning footballers are a privileged group who get special treatment, but the hurlers receive the exact same care and attention in terms of preparing for matches.
The situation in the background for doing strength and conditioning work; the nutritionist, the medical team, training facilities and so on are all on a par for the hurlers and footballers.
That was one of the things that attracted former Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham, into the Dublin camp at the beginning of the year when invited by new boss, Pat Gilroy.
football boss
Gilroy is a former All-Ireland winning manager with the Dublin footballers (2011), and when he moved into the hurling fold he brought former football selectors, Paddy O’Donoghue and Mickey Whelan with him.
Cunningham, who managed the Galway hurlers from 2012 to 2015 during which they won a Leinster championship and contested two All-Irelands, jumped at the opportunity when invited to be part of the Dublin backroom team.
“It was a new challenge,” smiled Cunningham when we spoke at the launch of the Leinster championship. “When you love hurling you like to be involved. Being involved with Dublin is a different angle for me.
“For a hurling person it is great to go in and work with players and see them develop,” he added. “Hopefully we can add something to their game. They want to win as much as anyone. What better than to be playing Kilkenny at home on the first day of the championship?”
When wondering what it was like operating in the shadow of the successful footballers, Cunningham revealed the Dublin hurlers wanted for nothing. The County Board was ever helpful and was very fair to all involved in hurling.
“The structures that Pat (Gilroy) has brought in, the backroom team and the organisation, is exactly the same as the footballers,” Anthony revealed.
“There is never that feeling that the hurlers are less important. It is just that Dublin are very, very talented at football presently.”
He said Dublin were conscious of the huge challenge of the Round Robin series in the Leinster championship. They open against Kilkenny, and the following week they face Wexford away.
“We are hoping to make it in one year,” he said of the general view in the camp. “Realistically we are hoping for big performances.”
The Dubs didn’t set the scene alight in Division IB of the National League. In the early games they experimented, tried a huge amount of new players. That continued until they got more established players back.
The League high for them was a stirring first half performance against Tipperary in the knockout stages, and the day they played well against Galway in Parnell Park too.
The benchmark
“Those performances have be the benchmark to build on,” he insisted. “There is light there. There is definitely potential there.”
He felt a lot of the younger players coming through the ranks were very, very skilful. In terms of touch and skill level they would be closer to a Kilkenny or Galway player than maybe previous Dublin players were, he reckoned.
Building the best of the bright new talent in with established players like Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe, Chris Crummey and others to find a winning blend was the big challenge.
“There are good prospects there,” he insisted.
And he reckoned the back-to-back All-Ireland club championship victories by Cuala had the potential to push on hurling immensely in Dublin. Every club in Dublin would have to raise their game to try and beat Cuala, and that could only be good for hurling in general in the county.
“You take something like that for granted in counties like Kilkenny and Galway, but the challenge is to create that kind depth in Dublin so you have a continuous flow of players coming through,” he offered. “Every hurling person in the country wants Dublin to be up there competing.
“That is the challenge for the lads and myself. It is great to be involved. It is a hobby, a privilege to be asked and to be involved.”
challenge on 13th
And so then, what about the visit of Kilkenny, the League champions, to Parnell Park on Sunday?
“The 13th, unlucky for some, but who,” he smiled when he posed the question. “Kilkenny have been brilliant in the League, so, so hungry again.
“They are building a team, a massive team around Padraig Walsh at full-back and Cillian Buckley at centre-back, Walter Walsh at full-forward and T.J. (Reid), who is back to his wonderful best.
“Kilkenny have the talent. A lot of people were saying Kilkenny were gone, but hurling is so strong in Kilkenny. Under-age is strong; colleges is strong; club hurling is so strong.
“Kilkenny have a really exciting team coming. The whole championship is a bit of an unknown adventure to some extent for everyone.
“There will be packed houses. Hurling will be the winner. The atmosphere will be electric, and Dublin will be really having a go.”