Wednesday 13 December 2017

Jekyll and Hyde Dubs and Rebels prove a week is a long time in hurling

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Ger Cunningham laid down the gauntlet to his young Dublin hurlers when stating that nothing but a positive response to their 16-point defeat to Tipperary would suffice, but few could have predicted their reaction against Cork last Saturday.

The former Cork goalkeeper had told his team it was their time to deliver on the senior stage.

"They've got to decide if that level of performance is good enough. It's about what they expect of themselves," Cunningham (pictured) said after the Croke Park hammering.

"That's not good enough so they have to go away and reflect on how they can learn from it. The time has passed when they were underage players. They're seniors now, they've got to learn quickly."

Many saw it as Cunningham passing the buck and expressed their opinion that it was too much too soon for emerging talents like James Madden, Caolán Conway and Donal Burke, with former boss Humphrey Kelleher claiming "Ger's plan has set Dublin back a few years".

While Kelleher's prediction that "it will take a few years for those players to come up to the mark" is still realistic, the trio, along with others like Eoghan Conroy and Rian McBride, repaid their manager's faith and lifted the gloom overlooking Dublin hurling.

After casting aside many elder statesmen including 2013 All-Star full-back Peter Kelly and former captain Johnny McCaffrey, the capital's hurlers have been short of optimism but this breathes new life into a campaign which was short on oxygen.

As a Cork legend, with three All-Irelands to his name, it's ironic that this shot in the arm came in Páirc Uí Rinn at the expense of his native county while having a host of Rebels as part of his backroom team.

Instead it's his opposite number Kieran Kingston, who must face the music after another listless Cork display to add to their increasing list in recent seasons.

After an unbeaten run through the Munster League and a confidence-boosting win over Clare it seemed they were on their way to eradicating the patchiness which dogged 2016, but alas the same problems reared their head.


"There was too much written about us after Clare and there may be the same after this. We are somewhere in between and we know we have a huge amount of work to do," Kingston said in the aftermath and it's the party line he has spouted for months.

Kingston said he was braced for a Dublin "backlash" but it's doubtful he expected anything like what happened - both from the Dubs and his own charges.

All the old failings came back to haunt Cork - the holes appearing in defence, the lack of physicality, the inability to win primary possession and the misfiring attack.

They were hurled off the park by an energetic and enthusiastic Dublin side whereas a week previous they looked like world beaters.

But a week is a long time in hurling as both managers know only too well.

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