Anthony Cunningham relishing Dublin challenge
By Cian O'Connell
On the eve of the new inter-county year Anthony Cunningham is delighted to be back preparing for a real and exciting challenge.
Pat Gilroy's unveiling as Dublin hurling manager ensures interest and intrigue surrounds the team in the capital.
Cunningham is thrilled to be occupying a central role in Gilroy's coaching ticket. "I'm really, really taken back by the energy, enthusiasm and the backroom team that he has put together," Dublin selector Cunningham remarked at the launch of the Bord Na Mona Leinster GAA series. "They're really driving to achieve and he's a very, very impressive man."
Gilroy's desire for a successful Dublin team to be operating in both codes is something that struck Cunningham. "Yeah, and I suppose he's a club man, a big St Vincent's man, but a huge Dublin man and a very, very successful business man as well, a really, really strong manager through his lifetime.
"Also his pedigree in the GAA is huge and a really, really strong interest in hurling, which is, he loves the game.
"It's early days yet and you're judged by results and we're all in there as a management team striving for results. The proof of the pudding is going to be in results."
Cunningham is looking forward to training and attempting to help players develop. "Well, you'd still always be looking out for fellas and giving tips to guys and wondering how they're going and being in touch with guys for sure," Cunningham states.
"I suppose the county board side, the other things, Pat will be handling that side of things.
"But you would have to say that Dublin run a really good shop, probably the best in the country. Probably have the best CEO in the country in John Costello, no disrespect to any other county."
The former Galway boss is adamant that it isn't a risk returning to the game at this level with Dublin. "I wouldn't say gamble," Cunningham replies. "I suppose they'd be the Dublin influence, that they wanted Pat and the management team to have a very strong Dublin brand and influence really, that would be one thing.
"A gamble? I would say no. But the challenges, look it, they're massive really. "The competition now that's there with the top eight or 10 hurling teams, they're very, very even.
"Dublin will want to build on the work that Ger Cunningham has done and, before him, in Anthony Daly's time, and get back to that level and go beyond that. We're just not there for the fresh air really."
Gilroy believes that Dublin have the potential to be a top four outfit and Cunningham agrees wholeheartedly. "Yeah, that's the challenge and to get to the top four is really challenging, but there's no reason why it shouldn't," Cunningham admits.
"You would have to say that the work being done at underage and with the underage teams and developing teams and with the clubs, it's beginning to shine.
"If you take this year's U-17 team, they were as close to a Kilkenny or a Galway or a Cork underage team as you could see.
"That's proof to me that the coaching is really, really working and that the setup is working. I would think that the younger guys coming through would help fuel some of the older guys and maybe get to the top four.
"That's a huge challenge, but we're not there if there's not a challenge. That's life for every one of us that gets up every day, there's a challenge."
When Dublin face Galway in the Allianz Hurling League and Leinster Championship Cunningham won't be overly focused on the opposition.
"Just another game," Cunningham replies. "Always another game. I'm a Galway man. I was delighted that Galway got through this year, a relief. You always have a sense of pride there that you contributed in some way to Micheal Donoghue and his players and getting through. That's for sure.
"There'll be competition there and we'll be planning their downfall but they are the team to beat but for me, definitely I had a huge part in a lot of that team.
"I had even at U-21 level for two or three years and on to senior level. I saw them develop and grow. Now I'm trying to say can we beat them because that's what everyone wants to do and they'll be the team to beat."