CUNNINGHAM: STANDARDS AND EXPECTATIONS HAVE RISEN WITH DUBLIN HURLING.
Newly-appointed Dublin senior hurling manager Ger Cunningham has set himself the challenge of building upon the progressive work carried out by his predecessor Anthony Daly and plans to “raise the bar a bit”.
Former Cork goalkeeper and coach Cunningham feels that 2014 may have been viewed as a disappointment by some observers due to the fact that Dublin had come within touching distance of an All-Ireland final appearance in the previous season.
Cunningham, a current sports ambassador for Bord Gáis Energy, will make his first live TV appearance as Dublin manager at Saturday night’s U21 hurling team of the year awards on TG4 (8.30pm).
Admitting that the Sky Blues had achieved high standards in previous years, Cunningham reflected: “Looking at it from the outside, Dublin would have had ambitions to try and improve on where they got to in 2013, when they won the Leinster championship, got to an All-Ireland semi-final and within a puck of a ball of the final.
“When that didn’t happen, there was a certain amount of regret and it just shows where the standards have gone.
“Anthony has done such a great job that even getting to a Leinster final and All-Ireland quarter-final was looked on as a disappointing year.
“In the past, that would have been a great year for Dublin and that’s an indication of how well Anthony did.”
Cunningham will endeavour to assemble the best possible squad of players at his disposal for the 2015 – and insisted that age is irrelevant.
Daly was hamstrung by the fact that a number of the county’s top dual players committed to football only but Cunningham insists that the door is open for any player wishing to make himself available to the hurling set-up.
Cunnningham, 53, said: “My job is to put the best squad of players together to represent the Dublin senior hurling team.
“In that regard, the door is open for any player who wishes to commit to the cause.
“Any player currently playing football but feels that he wants to put his hand up for the Dublin hurlers will obviously be considered.
“I am fully aware that there are a number of talented dual players in the county and that is a reflection of Dublin’s current strength in both codes.”
And Cunningham, who has kept a close eye on the U21 grade through his work as a Bord Gáis Energy sports ambassador in recent years, insisted: “Age is irrelevant to me when it comes to finalising a panel for the New Year.
“It doesn’t matter whether a player is 17 or 37 – if my selectors and me believe that he has something to contribute and something to offer to the squad, we will base my judgements around that.
“We will obviously be taking in the concluding stages of the club championships in Dublin and the Blue Stars in the New Year will also give players to put their hands up and stake a place for inclusion.”
Cunningham will finalise his backroom team in due course and explained: “It’s still a little early to speculate on who I will have.
“I have just been confirmed in the post myself and the process of formulating a backroom team is ongoing.
“It wouldn’t be fair to comment on individuals until I have confirmed appointments behind the scenes.
“When that is done, I will be in a position to provide further information.”
Cunningham congratulated goalkeeper Alan Nolan and Liam Rushe on their All Star nominations and stated that he will get down to business with his new charges as soon as possible.
And he is hoping to put the experience gained working alongside managers Donal O’Grady, John Allen and Jimmy Barry-Murphy in Cork to good use.
He said: “Having worked closely with three intercounty groups, you pick up things and learn things.
“They are all successful, All-Ireland winning managers and you pick up ideas and thoughts about what works best from each of those guys.
“I’ll be trying to mix those with my own ideas on how things should be done.”
Cunningham, a three-time All-Ireland SHC medallist, also believes that he can successfully combine a busy work life with his new role.
He explained: “I do some work in Dublin anyway. Part of my day to day job involves going to Dublin at different times over weeks and months. That ties in nicely with that.
“The main demand and the challenge that I see is to try and follow on the work that Anthony has done, and try to raise the bar a bit if I can.
“If you look at the provinces now, there are no easy scenarios. In Leinster, we have the All-Ireland champions Kilkenny plus four or five of the hurling’s other top teams.
“It’s extremely competitive but that’s the nature of the business.”
Cunningham will appear on TG4’s live coverage of the Bord Gáis U21 team of the year awards, which airs at 8.30pm on Saturday evening. The programme will celebrate the best players, and scores, of the 2014 U21 season.(Dublingaa.ie)