Tuesday 20 February 2018

Cullen backs Dubs U-21 stars to make instant impact

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ALL-IRELAND winning Dublin captain Bryan Cullen believes county U-21 stars like Ciaran Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey have the tools to quickly slot into the senior set-up this summer.

Cullen says the arrogance of youth is one of their greatest assets. But he also believes they have the sort of physical strength that he didn't have when trying to make the jump from winning an All-Ireland U-21 medal to playing for the Dublin seniors.

"We played in a minor final and two U-21 finals and when we came into the senior side, we certainly wouldn't have feared anyone," Cullen said.

"I suspect it's the same with these guys. They're used to winning games, they're young, ambitious and they will have no fear, that's a huge advantage.

"They also have the advantage that minor and U-21 teams now have strength and conditioning programmes," said Cullen who works, professionally, as a strength and conditioning coach with the Leinster rugby Academy.

"In previous years, they might have found it harder going but now they have 12 months, if not two years, of hard conditioning behind them.

Marking

"I remember my first (Dublin senior) training session. I was marking Senan Connell, playing wing-back, and I was just in awe at the pace of the game.

"I just couldn't keep up with it at all. It took me until the end of the summer to feel confident that I could compete at this level.

"In contact situations, where you were used to being physically stronger, now you have Ciarán Whelan running into you," Cullen recalled of his bruising introduction to Dublin's seniors.

"It's a little bit of a shock but they have been better physically prepared than I would have been 10 years ago.

"That's what we need in Dublin. We need players coming up and asking questions of the players that are already there. We have quite a structured style of play so I would like to think a quality footballer could slot in quite easily."

Donegal's footballers have successfully assimilated two schoolboys -- Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty -- to their senior ranks in recent summers.

McBrearty lined out for both the county minors and seniors on the same day in last year's Ulster championship, yet is only sitting his Leaving Cert next week. But Murphy admitted yesterday that his studies suffered when he was first called up, and he had to repeat his Leaving the following year.

"It's tough and I found the balancing act very, very difficult," he said.

"I had a great manager at the time in Brian McIver who gave me all the time I needed, just like Jim (McGuinness) is doing with Patrick at the moment.

"But it's still in the back of your head coming into championship time, you're still thinking about them outside kicking football and it's very, very hard to do, even when the management give you plenty of time to study."

Irish Independent

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