Dublin manager Ger Cunningham believes his side showed enough quality in defeat to Kilkenny at Nowlan Park to give them real cause for optimism going forward.

The TJ Reid-led Cats eased into the knockout stages of the Allianz Hurling League with a 0-23 to 1-14 win on Sunday afternoon.

The Dubs hit 16 wides and never looked like taking anything from the contest, but they are into the quarter-finals regardless, and Cunningham praised their response to a swashbuckling Kilkenny start.

“It was a disappointing first half," he told RTÉ Sport. "We took our time to settle. We were chasing the game early on; Kilkenny got a really good start and it’s not an easy place to come when you’re chasing the game. We needed to get to half-time.

"I’m delighted with how we stuck to it in the second half. We showed we’re trying to stick to what we’re trying to do. We’ll take plenty of positives and encouragement from the second half.

"There’s no better place to come than Nowlan Park to get a sense of where you’re really at.

"David O’Callaghan got a small little twinge the other night so it gave us a chance to bring young Fintan MacGib in. That’s one of the positives.

"Eoghan O’Donnell, Shane Barrett... some of the other guys we brought in – it’s great experience for those guys to come here. They can be very happy with their performance."

Dublin will face Limerick, runners-up in Division 2, in the Division 1 quarters, with Cunningham relishing a repeat of last year's league last-eight showdown.

"Limerick is a tough game for us now but we look forward to it," he added. "They are great games to be getting at this time of the year.”