Credit is deservedly due to Dublin’s Senior Hurlers for their performance on Saturday night in Pairc Ui Rinn, but despite their valiant effort, they now face an extended break in proceedings.
With only 14 men for the majority of the game, Dublin played with defiance in a pulsating battle with Cork, but the rebels’ advantage of the extra man was enough to get them safely across the line in the last four minutes of play and they move forward to a Round 2 fixture with Wexford in Thurles this weekend.
For Dublin manager Ger Cunningham, Saturday was a night of both pride and emotion as he faced his home county on home soil knowing a win was the only result for Dublin to remain in the competition.
With over 10,000 in attendance, the atmosphere was electric and a very spirited Dublin rose to the challenge and by no means made it easy for Kieran Kingston’s men.
Cunningham found it hard to put his feelings into words after such an emphatic performance by his team and the reception he received, but was extremely proud of his panels commitment and effort.
“It was difficult and it was emotional but, at the same time, I didn’t hear a bad word said, so I’m happy with that point of view and happy with the respect I got.”
“But delighted with the team … I was proud to walk in with them, and proud to walk out with them.”
It was indeed a top class performance. Dublin really wanted the win and had the clientele to do it. Finally, the right combination of youth and experience was to the fore and their engine was humming.
This game was end to end. And Cork, based on their experiences of this year, had reason to be nervy at the throw in. Unfortunately, losing a man so early in the game is a knock that no team needs and it may well have been the deciding factor.
“I thought the first one wasn’t a yellow.” Cunningham told the Herald regarding Chris Crummey’s sending off. “It happened right in front of us, the ball was high and he went to play the ball – and you are allowed to go and play the ball.”
“The second one was a shoulder challenge, and I thought he put himself in a situation, put himself under pressure with the first yellow card.”
Despite the setback, Dublin didn’t lie down and continued to pressure the rebels to the death. And what will shine for Dublin from this fixture was the continual rise of their young stars, some of which will play a part in Wednesday’s Leinster U21 Hurling Final.
Watching the likes of Chris Bennett and Shane Barrett putting in momentous shifts on Saturday night instills the belief that there is still an abundance of talent at the county’s disposal. That, matched with the Dublin Minor’s fantastic Leinster final victory on Sunday, goes a long way to affirming a long line of player coming through the ranks.
Bennett particularly, in his first Senior Championship start, was truly immense, scored a bunch of spectacular points, and of course was responsible for stripping Christopher Joyce of the sliotar to set up Eamonn Dillon’s second half goal.
On Cunningham’s future? There’s never a good time to be asked. And considering Ger has a year left on his contract, the decision may not necessarily be his to make.
“We were looking at winning and looking forward to next weekend, going into the draw on Monday, which is not to be. So we’ll sit back and reflect,” he explained. “We’ll chat to the lads on the board and see what we’re going to do. This is not the night.”
It’s become a rare thing for Dublin’s year to end on the first weekend in July, but it gives the team, staff and board months to ponder 2017, and hopefully enjoy the fruits of both the Minors and Under 21’s for some time longer.