With only days to go before the start of Dublin’s Allianz National Hurling league campaign, the mood in the capital seems relatively buoyant.
Since their early exit from the Championship at the hands of Cork last year, Ger Cunningham and his panel have come in for a lot of criticism.
The Cork native enters his third year at the helm of the Dublin team and during the break has pulled the panel apart and promoted a large number of debutants, which has again made him the focus of some negative column inches.
But Whitehall and Dublin defender Eoghan O’Donnell is adamant that the mood in the camp is good and positive ahead of this Saturday’s opener against All Ireland Champions Tipperary.
“For a lot of people this is their first chance, so they are absolutely gunning for it.” O’Donnell told the Examiner.
“They are delighted to be there, it is a hard thing to recreate that energy. It is brilliant, it has been very enjoyable so far.”
There have been so many marquee players, that have brought the rarest of League and Leinster success to Dublin, have either walked away or were left surplus to requirements. Which has made this year a challenge before the turn of the calendar.
But Dublin showed up for the 2017 Walsh Cup with a bright outlook, a revived hunger, and a lot of new faces. Against Carlow and UCD, there were very positive signs all throughout the pitch.
Players like Donal Burke, Alex and Ben Quinn, Donie Fox, Cian O’Sullivan and Fergal Whitely all stepped up to the plate for the Dubin manager over the three games and sadly, only a goal separated them and Wexford in the final round, costing them a semi final place.
Despite that small blip the panel appear to be gelling well with the older guard like Chris Crummy, Niall McMorrow and Liam Rushe.
“It has been brilliant, the enthusiasm. When you are younger all you do is dream of playing for Dublin.”
“A lot of young lads have come through, they haven’t known any different in the set-up. They are just buying completely into what we are showing them.”
In only his second year on the Senior Panel, of course capturing last year’s We Are Dublin Young Player Of The Year Award, O’Donnell already talks and acts like a veteran. But he remembers well his debut experience. That was last year on a rainy day in Semple Stadium.
“It’s not something you can easily prepare for. You are thrown in at the deep end and most of the time you swim. Lads have been playing at the highest level all the way up and this is no different. There’s no reason why they won’t be able to do it at this age either.”