Brian Barry gives his verdict on the appointment of Ger Cunningham as Dublin hurling manager.
Ger Cunningham has been ratified by the Dublin County Board to take charge of the senior hurlers for the next three seasons, taking over from Anthony Daly in the capital’s hotseat.
Daly’s tenure will go down as huge progress. Considering where Dublin were in 2008, the six years were an undoubted success. However, one major criticism of the period was lack of consistency. Of course reaching the 2009 Leinster Final, the 2011 League title, and the 2013 Leinster triumph will live long in the memory. But failings in 2010, 2012, and 2014 render this Dublin team as underachievers. With a new manager, there is naturally a sense of optimism around the hurling community in Dublin.
Looking forward, it was important to get another high-profile outsider to come in and help to further raise the status of hurling. Despite the recent progress, hurling has not yet captivated the city. While it has grown in popularity, and Hill 16 packed out to see the county team play is a testament to that, it still has failed to capture the imagination of the public as a whole.
Outside of the clubs, there is no mention of hurling overheard on the streets. Perhaps the good fortune of the footballers coinciding with the rise of hurling had a role in its lack of exposure. Nonetheless, the small ball does not yet have the popularity which its potential allows.
Other names mentioned for the job included Shay Boland and Liam Sheedy. Boland, the former minor manager, was overlooked for the bigger name. As for Sheedy, it was rumoured the Portroe man was involved with the training of Tipperary this summer, and was unwilling to talk to anybody until the All-Ireland was over. Whether Sheedy was not interested, or the county board opted for Cunningham, the Corkonian’s record speaks for itself.
Cunningham was goalkeeper for the Rebels between 1981 and 1999. Having retired from playing, the St Finbarrs clubman went into management, being involved with Cork as a selector between 2003 and 2006, and again once Jimmy Barry-Murphy took charge. Add a county championship with Ballygunner, several freshers All-Irelands with UCC, and the current UCC Fitzgibbon Cup manager has an impressive CV.
Now is his chance to do it on the biggest stage of all. With an exciting team crying out for a manager who can instill belief, Cunningham is handed the opportunity to create history and help Liam McCarthy to winter by the Liffey for the first time since 1938.
However, Dublin hurling is not without its challenges. It has been fighting a perennial battle with the footballers, and while some high-profile players such as Conal Keaney and Danny Sutcliffe have opted to play hurling, Jim Gavin’s squad is littered with top class hurlers.
Tomás Brady, Ciarán Kilkenny, Cormac Costello; the list goes on. With more dual talent streaming through at underage, it is imperative that Cunningham gets his pick of the top players the county has to offer if Dublin are to challenge for All-Ireland honours in the coming years.
Dublin, under the correct guidance, are one of the finest teams in the country. There are exciting times in the capital, and a big chance for both Dublin and Cunningham. 2015 can’t come fast enough for Dublin fans.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.