Conal Keaney believes Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham is taking a gamble in putting so much faith in an inexperienced panel for the coming season.
The former Dublin hurler, who retired from inter-county duties last year, says Cunningham’s decision to dispense with a number of high-profile players “could be very worrying” as the Dubs prepare for the visit of All-Ireland champions Tipperary to Croke Park for the opening round of the Allianz League.
The likes of Paul Ryan, Shane Durcan, Johnny McCaffrey, Peter Kelly and Joey Boland are no longer involved, while the absence of Danny Sutcliffe is a huge loss to the Dubs, according to the Ballyboden man.
The 24-year-old stepped away from the Dublin panel before the 2016 season in order to concentrate on his studies, though he continued to play with his club St Jude’s and was part of the Under-21 county backroom team.
The 2013 All Star revealed late last year that he would not be involved for 2017 either as he planned to go travelling and, speaking on 2fm’s Game On programme, Keaney told listeners that a personality clash with Cunningham was also a factor in the decision.
“To be honest, I don’t really know this year,” he said when asked why Sutcliffe decided to stay away for a second year.
"Danny was the best hurler in Dublin when he was playing"
“I know he was thinking of really trying to get back involved last year, but I think personalities really came into it and they [Cunningham and Sutcliffe] just clashed. It just wasn’t to be.
"Danny was the best hurler in Dublin when he was playing.
“For this squad now, there’s no point dwelling on players that aren’t there. It’s the way that management want to go with things.”
Keaney, who won a provincial medal in both codes with Dublin during an inter-county career that began in 2001, said it is a risk to let go of so many of the older guard, but adds that there are still leaders, and talented hurlers, within the panel.
“You look at the players that aren’t there, Paul Ryan, Shane Durcan, Johnny McCaffrey, Peter Kelly, Joey Boland, you could rattle them all off,” he said.
“They were the main leaders in the team under Anthony Daly not so long ago. That’s the way Ger Cunningham wants to go with his team, he wants to go with youth.
"Time will tell how that will go for him.”
“You could probably name a Dublin team at the weekend where there could be a debutant in every line, which is very strange.
"It’s either sink or swim for them for a lot of them now"
“It could be very worrying. It’s also a chance for those young lads.
"There are great hurlers in Dublin. Maybe throwing them into the deep-end isn’t the right thing to do at this stage of their career, but it’s either sink or swim for them for a lot of them now.
“It’s not as if they don’t have any leaders at all. They still have the Gary Maguires, the Liam Rushes, Chris Crummeys, they are great leaders as it is.”
The hurlers take on All-Ireland champions Tipperary (throw-in 5pm) in a double header at Croke Park on Saturday night, with the footballers hosting Tyrone at 7pm.