‘THE NEW BRAND OF HURLER COMING THROUGH IN DUBLIN IS OUTRAGEOUS’
IT’S SO FAR, so good for Dublin under Ger Cunningham.
The Dubs continue their pre-season tune-up in Portlaoise on Sunday when they take on Laois in the Walsh Cup semi-finals.
Galway and Carlow are still standing on the other side of the draw but, if all goes to plan over the next 10 days, there could be silverware in the bag before the first truly competitive ball of the season is pucked.
That comes on 15 February against Tipperary and by that stage, Cunningham wants to have a firm grasp on all of his options. That’s what pre-season is for, after all.
The first experiments saw Liam Rushe, an Allstar half-back, sent out at full-forward in a throwback to his underage days while Leinster Championship-winning captain Johnny McCaffrey, whose usual habitat is in midfield, slotted in at corner back.
Shane Barrett, last year’s minor captain, started in the full-back line against DIT while the once-familiar faces of Ben Quinn, Kevin Byrne and Daire Plunkett also got their chance to impress.
When you put the old and the new together, midfielder Joey Boland says, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Dublin can build on the legacy of the Anthony Daly years.
“Our form has been up and down over the last couple of years and you can look at that as glass half-full or half-empty,” Boland said.
“The half-full is that we can perform up at that level whereas there are other teams in the country that try their best and they can’t get there. We know that we can get there and we feel that every year we are improving.
We’re getting older, we’re getting more mature, and the new brand of hurler coming through in Dublin is outrageous – so well conditioned, so well skilled from the development panels coming through, pushing all the lads that have been there for seven or eight years.
“Couple the youth and experience and the freshness around the camp, I’m expecting a huge year for Dublin hurling and I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
It’s a resounding endorsement of the work that has been done to revamp Dublin’s underage structures, but as another team-mate pointed out last week, matters are not equally rosy in all parts of the capital.
David “Dotsy” O’Callaghan has sought a transfer to Ballyboden St Enda’s because his boyhood club St Mark’s are struggling to field teams, let alone remain competitive.
“I actually had the transfer forms up in his letterbox to Na Fianna,” Boland joked. “I forged his signature but they spat it back out.
“Dotsy has given everything he could to St Mark’s and to be honest he needs to be hurling all year round to keep his body fit and to keep motivated.
“Ballyboden are a great club – I like the way they’re investing in their youth policy!”
O’Callaghan’s move raised broader questions about the state of the game in West Dublin and while Boland accepts that the creation of a thriving hurling culture is an ongoing project, it’s certainly moving in the right direction.
“It’s a numbers thing, it’s a parents thing, it’s the whole competition from other sports like rugby and soccer and golf.
“You’ll always have your nucleuses, like you have your hurling areas of Cork, football and hurling areas of Kerry. It’s certainly growing in Dublin.”