Ger Cunningham hails Darragh O’Connell impact

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham has confirmed that former Kerry star Darragh O’Connell is in contention for a Leinster SHC debut against Galway on Sunday week, May 31.

O’Connell, who finalised a switch from Abbeydorney to South Dublin outfit Cuala late last year, made his county bow against Tipperary in a high-scoring challenge in Drombane last Sunday evening, scoring two points from midfield.

Cunningham is an admirer of the former Christy Ring Cup winner, who was drafted into his squad recently on the back of impressive club form.

Cunningham said: “I thought he did well for his first game in, learning what we’re trying to do and how we play. He did a lot of very good things. He’s comfortable on the ball, shows good levels of support and he’s fit.

“He came in in good condition and that wouldn’t be an issue as he had a lot work done previously. He’s only been with us for a couple of weeks but the lads have made him feel very welcome.

“It was a good opportunity for us to give him a chance and see where he’s at.”

Kerry senior hurling boss Eamonn Kelly admits that the Kingdom’s loss is the capital’s gain following O’Connell’s inter-county switch.

Tipperary native Kelly said: “I’d love to have him but he’s been in Dublin for the last number of years and commuting up and down.

“He’s a cracking hurler and would probably make any inter-county team. He minds himself, doesn’t drink or smoke and is in great condition.

Kelly revealed that he approached O’Connell in an attempt to have him back for Kerry’s Christy Ring campaign. But O’Connell, who has represented Ireland at international shinty level, is now on course to forget a successful career with the Sky Blues.

Kelly added: “We were even trying to see would he come back for the Christy Ring but he was training with Cuala even before he transferred up.

“And they could see what he had to offer so they were delighted to get him.

“I knew if he didn’t go this year that he would next year. Last year, we had the promotion play-off with Offaly in Thurles and Darragh was head and shoulders the best player on view.

“That’s what you’re dealing with and, if I had him, I’d feel we’d have a very strong chance of winning the Christy Ring. He’s an awful loss to us but I fully understand his reasons for going as well.”

Cunningham confirmed that Niall McMorrow has been ruled out of the Galway game, after sustaining a thumb injury in training a fortnight ago.

McMorrow took his chance to impress against Galway in the group stages of the Allianz League campaign and started both the quarter-final and semi-final of the competition.

He scored two points in the impressive Croke Park victory over Limerick and lined out alongside Johnny McCaffrey at midfield in the Cork defeat at Nowlan Park.

Cunningham admitted: “It’s a blow to us as Niall had been playing well.”

Cunningham also confirmed that Ross O’Carroll, 28, has stepped away from the Dublin squad to focus on club football commitments with Kilmacud Crokes.

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