Skill level of emerging Dubs enthuses Cunningham
Anthony Cunningham might have been forgiven for wondering what he had let himself in for when Offaly came to Croke Park for the first round of this year's NHL Division 1B and routed Dublin by 13 points.
But Cunningham, coach to the Pat Gilroy-managed team, hopes Dublin are in it for the long game, that the significant rebuilding programme will be given time so that the green shoots, he says are already evident, can blossom.
Cunningham is convinced that the younger breed of Dublin hurler has the skill level to compete with the best in the future.
"They're probably closer to a Galway or a Tipperary player or a Jason Flynn. Take the likes of Ronan Hayes, Fergal Whitely -their skill level is really high and will stand to them, most definitely," said the former Galway manager.
"That's testament to more coaching going on in Dublin. You definitely can see that a lot of these players have played more hurling at underage level. And that's no disrespect to the former players that have gone. Their touch and their ability, Donal Burke, Eoghan O'Donnell, they're top colleges players now.
"Eoghan would have been marking Jason Forde in the Fitzgibbon final. So, to have five or six players even sitting at that table is huge. They have a nice U-21 team coming through, we have a good few of them in and we play internal matches with them."
Cunningham sees a big programme of development over the next number of years, making comparison to the Galway team he took over in 2012.
"The majority of the team that night were very young," he recalled.
"It will take time. Physicality is huge now. It's probably a bit like Galway in 2012 when you're bringing a lot of new players in. It took a few years for them to get stronger."
That said, Cunningham says Dublin are ambitious enough in the short term to disrupt the expected order of things in this year's Leinster round-robin.
"Rome wasn't built in a day but, having said all that, we want to create a surprise or two this summer.
"That's what we're in the game for. We want to qualify. Nick a home win and the last match or two could be very interesting then."
And he feels they're getting Kilkenny at the right time and at the right venue.
"The best place to play Kilkenny is at home, and the first match. I think every team would see it as a challenge to play in Parnell Park - except Dublin, they like it playing there. And we're going to bring huge intensity there, as are Kilkenny," he predicted.
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