The confirmation of his appointment, signalled in the Irish Examiner on Monday, came just hours after his fellow St Finbarr’s man Jimmy Barry-Murphy put an end to idle talk by agreeing to stay on as Cork boss for another two years.
Cunningham, a selector under Barry-Murphy in 2012 and ’13, takes his first inter-county management role having also worked under previous Cork managers Donal O’Grady and John Allen. His selectors will be confirmed at a later date.
His appointment will be welcomed by the Dublin panel who had been looking for an All-Ireland winner to take the helm. Danny Sutcliffe called for a manager with the same “pull” factor as Daly to get the job. Thirty-somethings such as Conal Keaney, Stephen Hiney, Gary Maguire and Michael Carton are likely to make themselves available for another season.
In a statement last night, Dublin chairman Andy Kettle said: “This is another chapter in Ger’s distinguished GAA life and I wish him every success in his new role. I am confident that Ger will build on the progress achieved by his predecessors over the next three years.”
Cunningham’s coaching expertise had greatly impressed the Dublin selection committee, the three-time All-Ireland-winning goalkeeper having led Ballygunner to Waterford and Munster titles in 2009.
His brief in the capital could be extended to providing a coaching structure at under-age and development level.
The 53-year-old had been linked with the Limerick role vacated by John Allen last season before Donal O’Grady returned to the county with TJ Ryan. He stepped down as an assistant to Barry-Murphy last November.
Cunningham will also take charge of UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup hurlers next year having been in charge of their freshers team in recent years.
Cunningham and Barry-Murphy will again share a sideline but in opposite areas on March 7 when Cork travel to Dublin in Division 1A. The game may form part of a Croke Park double-header with a Dublin-Tyrone Division 1 football match.
Following a meeting with county board chairman Bob Ryan yesterday, Barry-Murphy has been given a two-season extension until the end of the 2016 campaign.
Barry-Murphy will confirm his management and backroom team over the coming weeks with some changes anticipated. Kieran Kingston, Johnny Crowley and Seanie McGrath have all served with him since he took over in late 2011. Former athlete David Matthews has served as physical team trainer.
Ryan met him yesterday after the manager returned from a foreignholiday. The news puts to bed conjecture the 60-year-old was set to step down after three years in charge. Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Ryan dismissed the speculation as “absolute rubbish”.
Should Barry-Murphy see out the two-year term, it will mean 10 years at the helm for the 1999 All-Ireland-winning manager.
The Cork executive had always been optimistic he would continue in the role for at least another season. Despite the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary, Barry-Murphy had delivered the county’s first Munster title in eight years.
Ryan said in August: “He is a great coach who has done a great job with this group of players and it would be my personal opinion that he stay on as manager. That would be my but we haven’t yet spoken to Jimmy, although I’d hope he will remain on in the fullness of time. It won’t be my decision alone. It’s a decision for the executive of the board and the county board.”
One of Barry-Murphy’s first jobs will be to try and convince Aidan Walsh to opt for hurling over football, having revealed earlier this week that he won’t be an inter-county dual player next season. Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan may face similar decisions, as might Cadogan’s younger brother Alan, who was today honoured with an All Star hurling nomination in the full-forward line.
Reaction on Twitter to Barry-Murphy’s reappointment and Cunningham’s selection was hugely positive. Former full-back Diarmuid O’Sullivan posted: “Great news from @OfficialCorkGAA ..JBM stays on for two more years”
Hull City’s David Meyler tweeted: “Congrats to Ger Cunningham on getting the Dublin hurling job, be great to see him and JBM going at it on the touch line! #RebelsAbu”