Cunningham hails new boys in blue

Dublin coach Anthony Cunningham believes the talent of the up-and-coming players in the panel trumps that of their senior colleagues.

As they count down to their Leinster SHC opener against Kilkenny in Parnell Park on Sunday, the former Galway manager is enthused by just how proficient they are with the basics of the game.

“I would definitely say the younger players coming through, their skill level is higher. They’re probably closer to a Galway or a Tipperary player or a Jason Flynn.

“Take the likes of Ronan Hayes, Fergal Whitely — their skill level is really high and will stand to them, most definitely. That’s testament to more coaching going on in Dublin. You definitely can see that a lot of these players have played more hurling at an underage level.

“And that’s no disrespect to the former players that have gone. Their touch and their ability… Donal Burke, Eoghan O’Donnell… I mean, they’re top colleges players in Ireland now. Eoghan would have been marking Jason Forde in the Fitzgibbon final.

“So, to have five or six players even sitting at that table is huge. They have a nice U21 team coming through; we have a good few of them in and we play internal matches with them.

“Yeah, if we can get the mix right — but it will take a bit of time.

Physicality as well is huge now, and being of the proper strength to play. It’s probably a bit like Galway in 2012 maybe, and those years, when you’re bringing a lot of new players in. It took a few years for them to get stronger.

Patience will be required but Cunningham is confident manager Pat Gilroy will be afforded that. “I would say they’ll probably get the time. Definitely. I would hope that the powers-that-be, the John Costellos and Co and the Dublin County Board, would be happy with the progress on that.

“But I think all of the players around the table, all of the coaches and all of the underage, minors, U21s, and seniors, they need to have an overall plan.

“They can get there — I’d be confident of that. And I think Dublin needs a strong hurling team as well, because I think you’ll have a lot of football players in Dublin not getting an inter-county team. So, it does need that and for the betterment of club hurling and for the attraction of young players playing, you need the county team going strong.

“I think they can get there. Rome wasn’t built in a day but, having said all that, we want to create a surprise or two this summer, that’s for sure. That’s what we’re in the game for.”

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