Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham believes his players are slowly shedding their Jekyll and Hyde tag.
Dublin’s inconsistent nature is highlighted in their failure to string back-to-back progressive championship campaigns during Anthony Daly’s six-year reign. That unpredictability was again prevalent in this spring’s national league — Dublin impressively claiming the scalp of Tipperary and Kilkenny over the opening fortnight before imploding against Cork in round three, and, indeed, in the second half of their league semi-final bout with the Rebels.
“I don’t think there’s any real one route cause [to Dublin’s inconsistency],” said Cunningham.
“The last management team, they had their way of preparing a team and they were there six years. Again, it’s just something I felt we needed from ourselves, to be more consistent, rather than being up one day and down the next like.
“Other than one half of the Cork game, I think we’ve been settling down a bit.
“I think both ourselves and Galway won’t be looking at that situation. It’s a good opportunity to get to a Leinster semi-final. I think that’s certainly our hope, thinking about other competitions and that sort of stuff doesn’t come into it. I think it’s about looking forward to progressing in the Leinster championship and hopefully beating one of the top teams.”
Ahead of his first championship fixture in the Dublin bainisteoir’s bib, Cunningham says a positive league ensured a smooth bedding in process.
“I’ve got to know the players very well. I think they’re trying to embrace what we’re trying to do with them.
“So far, the league has been positive from that point of view which has probably helped. But new challenges come now on Sunday.”
Ultimately, it may take an All-Ireland win before Dublin are treated as a traditional hurling force alongside the likes of Clare and Galway themselves.
Dublin defender Peter Kelly agrees. “Probably so,” says Kelly. “We’re kind of making that tradition as we go along I think. Compared to previous times, I think we’re a very successful Dublin hurling team. Then I suppose when you lose a game or hit a rocky patch, there has to be reasons why. But I think that talk is just a stab in the dark really.”
Dublin have been accused of being “manufactured hurlers”, something which critics have jumped on after they have struggled against the stylists of the game, Cork.
Twice this year, Dublin have suffered at the hands of the Rebels, leaking 34 points to them in the league before coughing up a huge lead in the semi-finals. With no competitive action since the league, that semi-final collapse has lingered for longer than anyone in Dublin would would have cared for.
Sunday’s opportunity to partly atone can’t come soon enough.
“When we lost the Cork game it wasn’t a hurling reason, it was more a mental reason,” said full-back Kelly. “We just switched off and we couldn’t switch it back on again and Cork got red hot at the right moment for them.
“It’s something that we have been focusing on but in fairness we have closed out games in the past. Galway in the league was a pivotal game for us. We were facing down the barrel of a gun in terms of going to Nowlan Park for a relegation match if we lost so that was a must-win game for us, Probably our biggest one to date and we put in a great second-half performance.”
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