Ger Cunningham confirmed he will continue as Dublin hurling manager into 2016.
The Cork native was handed a three-year term when appointed to the position last October and yesterday stated his intention to remain at the helm.
Dublin exited the championship at the hands of Waterford on Sunday but Cunningham believes his charges are within sight of hurling’s summit, having shown themselves to be “competitive and consistent” in 2015.
“We’re not that far away, absolutely not,” insisted Cunningham at the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling final launch.We were in the last six. A couple of pucks of the ball against Waterford and it could have gone either way. A couple of decisions didn’t go our way; in tight games they can have a big impact. They could have swayed the game a different way.
“I think we need to go away, learn and reflect, look at the challenges we face next year. I’m looking forward to next year.
“We’ve introduced some new guys. Somebody said to me on Sunday night there were five or six new guys introduced to make their championship debuts. We were unlucky with injuries as well, we got them at bad times. But there’s a very good base from the U21 team this year and there are some very good players in that.”
Reflecting on their performances in both the league and championship, Cunningham was adamant Dublin’s season should not be defined by that dreadful opening quarter against Galway in the Leinster quarter-final replay – 3-10 to 0-1 they trailed after 19 minutes in Tullamore.
“At the start of the year, for us to be competitive and consistent, those were the two. We got to the league semi-final, a game we should have beaten Cork in. Going back to the first round of the championship, we had Galway nearly put away, we had a chance to go two points up in Croke Park and look at where Galway are now, into the semi-final, one game more than us.
“We had to regroup and we had two very good victories. We had to get to know the players and the players had to get to know us. It’s been a learning experience.”
Similar to his predecessor Anthony Daly, the three-time All-Ireland winning Cork goalkeeper burnt a fair amount of rubber on the M8 in travelling to the capital each week for training, challenge games, league and championship.
Was his first season serving as an inter-county manager as demanding as he expected?
“It takes up a lot of time. It has been very challenging, and rewarding as well. The journeys home cannot be nice. They can be tiring at night.
“It is grand when you are going to training, you are planning, you are thinking ahead all the time, but your energy levels go down after a session. Having to face the road home can be tough enough, I’ve got to hear John Creedon and Alf McCarthy on Radio One quite a bit going home!
“I knew going into it that was going to be the case. Overall, it has been great. I’ve enjoyed the experience so far.”
Eleven members of the Dublin starting team for Sunday’s quarter-final were pulled from four clubs – Cuala, Ballyboden St Enda’s, Lucan Sarsfields and Kilmacud Crokes – and, indeed, with Dotsy O’Callaghan having transferred from St Mark’s to Ballyboden St Enda’s, the Dublin panel does not feature a single hurler from either Tallaght or Finglas – the two areas boasting a population of in or around 120,000. Cunningham, though, refused to be drawn on the county’s hurling wastelands.
“That is a matter for the county board. The senior hurling team is my only focus. I just needed the time over the last couple of months to get to know the players, first of all, and the potential players that are out there as well. I haven’t looked at that scene.”
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