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No divide in the Dublin camp as Liam Rushe and Dublin turn to youth for 2017

Rushe also responded to exiled-Peter Kelly’s criticisms of Dublin boss Ger Cunningham.

WITH THE BULK of Dublin’s 2013 Leinster SHC winning team no longer part of the squad, Liam Rushe isn’t starting to panic.

A number of players who shared that historic triumph with Rushe three years ago have either withdrawn or been omitted from Ger Cunningham’s 2017 panel. That’s not something that comes as a shock for the centre-back.

Dublin GAA / All Blacks AIG Skills Challenge Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

“(I’m) not too surprised by that because…that team, you could probably say, peaked in 2011. There was a gap.” Rushe says.

“We were at the height of our powers, and then the following year we were robbed of a couple of lads by injury and by even more injuries the year after that.

“It was always a tight panel, we keep harking back to 2013 but we could have been as good in 2011, we were just decimated by injuries, and in 2013 we got lucky with our run.”

Peter Kelly, an All-Star in 2013 and co-captain with Rushe last year, was among those who found themselves left off the panel this year. Kelly voiced his disapproval of Cunningham in an interview last weekend but Rushe refused to criticise his former team-mate.

“I didn’t read them (his comments) specifically now, but people repeat them back to me alright,” Rushe says. “Everyone has different opinions. Peter has his and I’m not going to get into a little tit for tat with him over it.

“He didn’t see eye to eye with Ger over where things were going and decided to pull out, and like that’s his prerogative. We’re amateurs at the end of the day, if he doesn’t like the set up or where it’s going or think his contribution is being valued, then he’s well within his rights to pull out and he did.

“I fully respect him for that. He can go away and as I said, it’s a new year and a seriously new panel with a lot of good, new additions, and I’m just looking forward to working with them.”

Rushe denies the talk there was a rift in the squad, which forced Cunningham to turn to youth.

“Inter-county panels are their own little world, aren’t they? There are always going to be people who don’t have perceived slights but are not happy with not getting game time, or this that or the other, or injuries are just mounting up and frustrations just grow, and that’s what happened with a certain number of people.

He continued: “The management didn’t envisage certain roles for certain players and maybe they weren’t happy with that, and disagreements happen, they happen in every panel and that’s what happened to us this year.”

Liam Rushe Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’ll see what comes out of it, there might be a couple of young Dublin stars come out of that and we’re here tonight (at an event) with the All Blacks – they lost their two of their most storied players last year in McCaw and Carter when they dropped out.

“And who are they now this year? They went on their longest ever unbeaten run, so it’s the nature of sport and we’ll soldier on.”

Rushe now finds himself as one of the elders of the squad, despite being only 26. He estimates that he’s the sixth oldest on the 38-man panel, with David Treacy, Paul Schutte, Dotsy O’Callaghan, Ryan O’Dwyer and Gary Maguire the only players around longer than him.

Despite his seniority, the St Pats star doesn’t feel under more pressure to perform.

“It’s only a game. If you put too much pressure on yourself you won’t enjoy it. It feels like people are trying to put it on us already this year.

“The amount of people who have told me that we’re done or we’re finished before the year has even started I can’t believe it. A ball hasn’t even been pucked yet!

“These things happen. We’re going to have seven hard months of training before we actually go out for our first Championship game. A lot can happen between now and then and the panel is open ended as well.

“You’d never know who could be back in, performing well at club, or who could be left out again so we’ll see how things go.”

He’s also excited to see what this new crop of youngsters can do at senior level. Who does he feel are primed to make their mark?

“I suppose Fergal Whitely has certainly been touted as a young up and comer anyway. Aside from those it’s the minors coming up who you wouldn’t expect, like you wouldn’t expect too many to come on as starters, you might expect one or two a year.

“But it’s more a step up from the likes of Oisin O’Rourke and we’re going to see Eoghan O’Donnell and Oisin Gough develop again, like they’re going to have to step up now and be the leaders that we need them to be.

“If there are going to be five or six 19-20 year olds there, the 22-23 year-olds are going to have to the leaders. Personally I’m just looking forward to more development on that front because I wouldn’t want to burden too many of the young lads with too many expectations.”

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To help launch the AIG Insurance new discounts for drivers and their spouse/partners, the AIG Skills Challenge brought together the All Ireland Champions Dublin and the Rugby World Champions the New Zealand All Blacks’ for a head to head sporting clash in Castleknock College. 

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Kevin O'Brien

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