Ger Cunningham believes Dublin have no room for error against Galway
Hurling manager believes Allianz League semi-final defeat to Cork part of a learning curve
Ger Cunninghan believes his Dublin side will learn from losing the Allianz Hurling League semi-final against Cork. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
If every team is only as good as the last bit of their last game then Ger Cunningham might be worried. Otherwise he should be okay.
Because Dublin go into Sunday’s Leinster hurling quarter-final against Galway on the back of one of their best performances this year – before finishing with a little bit of their worst: that was the league semi-final against Cork, at Nowlan Park last month, when Dublin were up by 12 points after 20 minutes, nine at half-time, and perhaps most impressively, seven with 65 minutes on the clock.
And then they still lost by one.
That was largely down to Cork’s hurricane finish, made up of 1-5, including a late goal from substitute Paudie O’Sullivan. Dublin were also a little unlucky with a couple of calls on the new advantage rule, which possibly cost them the cushioning point that may have seen them home.
Yet for Cunningham, what happened against his native Cork that day was all perfectly valuable – the end experience every bit as important as the end result: “Like any game you lose, you would be disappointed,” says the Dublin manager. “We put ourselves in a position to win the game. We played really well for 50 minutes. The wind was quite strong (against Dublin) in the second half, and Cork were always going to come at us.
“We had nine or 10 chances, nine or 10 wides in the second half. Maybe if we had got them, maybe we would have stopped Cork’s momentum. So I think, again, it was our decision making. And that we didn’t get any advantage and a couple of points would have stopped Cork’s momentum.
“But it’s part of the learning curve, absolutely. I think for 50 minutes, we did play really good hurling, and for a lot of the game. But there is a lesson learned, that when we get into those situations, that we need to be closing them out.”
Sunday’s showdown in Croke Park certainly won’t allow much room for error, not against a Galway team now desperate to shake-off their ghost of inconsistency.
Cunningham admits it’s a big step up of what Dublin faced during the league, including in terms of his own role. There was always going to be that honeymoon period since the former Cork All-Ireland winning goalkeeper took over from Anthony Daly at the end of last season, yet this is his first Dublin game where the only merit or prize is in the end result.
“Okay, you’d like to win all the games,” says Cunningham, who was speaking in his role as an ambassador to the Bord Gais Energy under-21 championship. “The league was good for us. We got the chance to see some players, and for us to get to know them, so I think overall the league was very positive.
“But this is a new level, so we have to raise the bar to a new level. The league is the league, and you move on from it. These players would know Galway fairly well, from playing them over the last number of years, so I think they’re looking forward to it.
“But we’d be focusing more on ourselves, on our own point of view, than Galway. Galway have some serious hurlers, a bit like Dublin over the last few years, both teams have been inconsistent. So it’s a challenge for them to be consistent as well. It’s a 50-50 game on Sunday, without a shadow of a doubt. But if we can be consistent, and focus on ourselves, that’s as much as we can plan for.”
The problem with consistency, however, is that it can only be proven over time – and Dublin haven’t shown it for some time.
“I don’t think there’s any real one root cause,” says Cunningham. “The last management team, they had their way of preparing a team, were there for four or five years. Again, it’s just something that 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. But new challenges come now on Sunday.”