Wednesday 25 April 2018

Cunningham takes step back before diving into new job

Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham Cunningham has acknowledged the legacy bequeathed to the players by Anthony Daly. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham Cunningham has acknowledged the legacy bequeathed to the players by Anthony Daly. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

NEW ball game. New manager, different personality compared to the former incumbent. In fact, chalk and cheese comes to mind.

Not in a bad way, it must be said. Just different - very different.

Anthony Daly - passionate, heart on the sleeve, driven himself, and raucously demanding of the men under his command.

Ger Cunningham - quiet, thoughtful; the passion is there but it runs silently, runs deep, at least at the level of public engagement.

Maybe more of a facilitator, at least for now, taking a step back to assess, examine, and process the skills, the character, the ambition of the Dublin hurlers in these early weeks of his management.

No doubt Cunningham would, if he judged it necessary, smash the hurley on the dressing-room table and lift fellas out of it with the best of them.

Perhaps he might never choose that mode of 'communication'. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

What is certain is that you could never imagine Ger Cunningham donning a pair of swimming trunks and goggles and marching into the Dublin dressing room at Croke Park and declaring loudly 'Whaare's the pooool?"

"Iz thaare no poool here at all?"

And then, marching straight out the door, donning his tracksuit and going back to the dressing room in full-on Dublin team manager mode.

That was Anthony Daly's stunt prior to the National Hurling League final of 2011 because he felt the tension among the squad was too intense before they marched out to play Kilkenny - a match which ended with Dublin earning their first league title in 72 years.

The incident was related in 'Dalo', Anthony Daly's fascinating autobiography, written with journalist Christy O'Connor.

Tongue firmly in cheek, a media man asked Ger Cunningham at Wednesday's launch of Dublin's new sponsorship deal with Ballygowan and Energise Sport if he could see himself donning the 'Speedos' to motivate the lads.

Cunningham had read the book, and replied with a smile: "That was one of the extreme ones all right. I haven't gone that road before. It just goes to show what level he (Daly) went to, to try and create that atmosphere within the dressing-room."

Daly spent six years as Dublin manager; Cunningham has spent less than six weeks in competitive mode with the Blues squad, and he acknowledged the legacy bequeathed to the players by his Clare predecessor.

"He had such a relationship with them, I think that's plain to see, in the book.

"And I think, if you talk to any of the players, the relationship that they had with Dalo was fantastic.

"When you're there for four or five or six years, as he's been there, and had success and brought Dublin from where it was, into winning National Leagues and winning Leinster titles and competing for All-Ireland titles, there's bound to be a situation where there was a very strong bond there.

"But I think from talking to the lads and from talking to Dalo himself - I met him - it came to a natural end really, from their point of view," said Cunningham.

The early days of his management has brought three wins in the Walsh Cup, a place in the final on Saturday night against Galway, and the departure of highly-respected coach, Tommy Dunne.

Cunningham knew it was likely that a course in University of Limerick was on the cards for Dunne, who is also self-employed.

Aspect

When the Tipp man enrolled in the course, something had to give and it was the Dublin coaching role.

For now, Cunningham shares the coaching with Gearoid O Riain and Shay Boland. Ideally, he would like to source another top-level head coach, but it's not the best time of year to do that.

Cunningham views the coaching role as "very important".

"If you're coaching a team, you are coaching anything up to 30-35 players three or four times a week, so you build up a very strong relationship with them.

"Obviously, the Dublin players would have had a very strong relationship with Tommy because he had been with them for the last number of years … the lads had great time for him, and he was very popular with the players," he said.

His view of management is to take the broad perspective.

"Yeah, it's part of the role as manager - to step back and to see the bigger picture.

"You tend to look at all aspects of it, and coaching is one aspect of it in that situation.

"There's a lot of other stuff going on behind the scenes that you have to look after and look into, and it's good to be able to stand back at different times. So it's a different role, " said Cunningham.

Irish Independent

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