Ger Cunningham: Kilkenny hurlers won’t be so intimidating now

Dublin boss Ger Cunningham says Kilkenny’s swathe of retirements have given their competitors in Leinster cause for optimism. The decisions by Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Brian Hogan, David Herity and Aidan Fogarty to step aside means the Cats won’t be as intimidating, believes the Cork native.

Ger Cunningham: Kilkenny hurlers won’t be so intimidating now

“If you take, someone said 38 All-Ireland medals, out of a dressing room it’s got to. You have to give people a chance, I suppose, and those names won’t be as well known. JJ going was a surprise. He’s still a relatively young man. I think there was no indication from hurling people he was going to go.

“He’s been a phenomenal defender. If you sit down and debate, would you pick JJ or Tommy? Two players that are gone, phenomenal players.

“From that point of view, it’s probably less intimidating but they still have a lot of very good players. Hopefully, some more of them might go!”

Dublin travel to Nowlan Park in their second round Division 1A game later this month. Cunningham is assured he has the players to compete with any team in the country. So far, he’s seen little contrast between their attitude and that of Cork’s.

“It’s very early days, — we’ve played a couple of Walsh Cup matches. But the mindset is very strong. These guys have been at that level, been in Leinster finals, been in All-Ireland semi-finals, and they’ve won leagues.

“So the mindset is strong; I don’t see any difference in the mindset. But again, it’s early days. Maybe after the (first) few games in the NHL… the next couple of weeks when we’re going from playing Walsh Cup matches into important National League matches, so maybe we’d be better off to judge after that.”

Cunningham met his predecessor Anthony Daly at the Irish Book Awards in December where the pair exchanged numbers. He enjoyed his autobiography but tempered what he read about Daly’s six years with Dublin. “I had to balance what I was reading because I had to find out for myself too. I didn’t want to be too influenced by it.”

He has sensed no outstanding issues in the panel since Daly’s departure. “From talking to the lads and from talking to Dalo himself, it came to a natural end, from their point of view.”

Saturday’s Walsh Cup final against Galway provides Cunningham not only with another chance to assess his players before their league opener against Tipperary but one more fixture in Croke Park.

“It’s a great game to get, a week before your first league match. To play in Croke Park anytime is great, and there should be a nice atmosphere there on Saturday night under lights. It gives us a chance to give opportunities to some of the newer guy. So yeah, it’s great to be there. The more times you play in Croke Park, the better.”

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