“When you come into a new job, you work off the previous year’s panel and I have had a chance to look around at last year’s U21 and club championship and there are other players that would fit into our style of game. Lads are getting to know what we are looking for as well so that would be fair to say.
“We are going in with some new guys who will be making their debuts at the weekend and it shows that we are an evolving team at the minute. We have fellas who have moved or are not available but it gives a chance for other fellas to put their hand up. We have tried to give them the experience of it in the league and we are focusing on our own performance.”
Cunningham must do without a total of seven players this Saturday – Peter Kelly, Cian Boland, Cian McBride, Riain McBride, Ben Quinn and James Madden who comprise the injury list and Colm Cronin who is unavailable due to medicine exams.
A huge swath of experience has been lost too with the retirement of Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe’s decision to leave the panel and follow in the footsteps of Michael Carton. Alan Nolan and Simon Lambert were also dropped in December.
Ryan O’Dwyer, Paul Schutte and Niall Corcoran have recently returned to the panel but outside of some club action are lacking match fitness.
“Anyone who has come back in, the lads who are back, they’re very experienced. They would know what it takes to get up to the level to play Leinster championship. They’re certainly all being considered. They’re showing a good hunger for it having missed a lot of the league. So you can counter-balance that.”
Cunningham feels positive going into the Leinster quarter-final at the same time knows the league campaign left him with more questions than answers. “We’re going in a confident frame of mind. We had a mixed league really from the point of view of… we started it and finished it poorly with two poor performances (v Tipperary, v Limerick) that we were disappointed with. In between, we had some very good performances. So it’s hard to know where exactly we are in that situation. We’re looking for more consistency. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
Why that wasn’t happening during the spring, the St Finbarr’s man isn’t so sure. “That’s the big thing – we can’t say why that’s the situation. From our point of view, we need to be mentally right every game we play. Some days you’re not at the pitch of the game. We were disappointed with our performance against Limerick, as management and players. We had a good opportunity to get to a league semi-final. A home game against Limerick. We didn’t perform and that was disappointing.”
Like last year, there is uncertainty about who will man the nets for Dublin. Gary Maguire faces competition from his Ballyboden St Endas’ club-mate Conor Dooley after Nolan previously challenged him.
“It is a great way to be. He (Gary) has been Dublin’s goalkeeper for the last number of years and he wants the jersey as much as Conor and their attitude in training has been really good.”
But for the Bruce Springsteen concerts forcing the game to be brought forward by a week, Cunningham reckons Dublin would be in a better place going into this game.
For one, Cronin would likely be available. “I think, especially at this time of year, exams and third level guys, a week towards the start of June would have been preferable. It just gives them a chance to get exams finished and get them fully focused on hurling. But it’s difficult when you have both at the moment.”
Cunningham gives a qualified acknowledgement to Dublin’s recent good form against Wexford. “If that’s what gives you confidence then fine but it’s in the past and won’t get you victory on Saturday.”
Wexford, he expects, will pack quite the punch. “They are going to be very formidable on Saturday, 1B and the way it is gone with the teams that are going to be in there lose one game and you are going to be under pressure. You look at their success at U21 level with four Leinsters in a row they have the talent to pick from.”