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Ex-Player Michael Carton Opens Up On The "Toxic" Atmosphere In Dublin Hurling

Ex-Player Michael Carton Opens Up On The "Toxic" Atmosphere In Dublin Hurling
By Gavin Cooney
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We now enter the long GAA winter of discontent.

Disaffection is growing in Dublin hurling, following the huge turnover in players in the transition from the Anthony Daly reign to the Ger Cunningham era.

Cunningham is set to serve a third season at the helm in 2017, but his reign thus far has been characterised by a mass exodus of the talents that gilded the Anthony Daly side that won the Leinster title in 2013: just six starters of the Leinster winning team were named by Ger Cunningham on the 2017 panel.

Dissatisfaction with Cunningham has been rumoured for some time, and on tonight's Off the Ball, the exact nature of that disenchantment was spelled out by former All-Star nominated defender Michael Carton, who quit the panel ahead of an All-Ireland qualifier last year.

Along with Carton, Danny Sutcliffe, Colm Cronin, Joey Boland, Paul Ryan, Conal Keaney and Peter Kelly have all opted out of the panel.

Carton began by explaining to host Joe Molloy the reasons behind his quitting of the panel in 2013:

From the very first, Tommy Dunne was our coach - the best coach I've had - was named on the panel with Ger. But then the first meeting we had with Ger, he wasn't there. So, straight away I thought, what's going on here? We were never given clarity on that. After he left, we were promised a coach of that calibre, and it never happened. Straight away, you're being promised things and they're not happening.

It just wasn't a nice atmosphere. The Tommy Dunne thing started it, but among the management team, there was tension, and that filtered down. If players are seeing that, and it's not hidden from players...if they're questioning each other, you're going to have doubts in your mind.

You could see tension between them, not-speaking wise. And that proved right by the end of the year, because two lads left. The management broke up. We speak about Dublin hurling and all the players that have left over the years, but six of the management team have left, and that speaks volumes, I think. It's unheard of in intercounty hurling, to lose two management teams in two years.


That lack of continuity left Carton feeling "lost as a player".


Despite the early signs described above, Dublin made a decent start to their first league campaign under Cunningham, with the new manager making a few major selection calls: notably the moving of Conal Keaney to wing-back, Liam Rushe to centre-forward to full-back and Peter Kelly to centre-back.

Carton says that these changes were abandoned by their second Championship match.

Carton himself says he became frustrated by communication with Cunningham, having met with him to ask for an opportunity to play further outfield and move from full-back, but these pleas went unanswered by Cunningham, per Carton:


All he wanted me to be was a back-up full-back. After giving 13 years to Dublin hurling, I wasn't going to accept it. I was going home angry, all the time, so it was time to bow out.

I became a little unsure of the direction Dublin was going.

For me it was a toxic environment. There was no clarity, people weren't getting on, and it just wasn't a nice place to be. It's too much commitment to give when you're not enjoying it.

Despite widespread disenchantment, Carton says that players never held meetings with a view to ousting Cunningham, and believes that the reason such a rebellion has not yet happened is due to the fact that the Dublin panel consists of young players who have never known a manager other than Cunningham.

He also questioned the role of the county board:

I think the county board have a huge role to play in this too.

For the county board, they are happy enough for the Dublin footballers to be winning All-Irelands and for Dublin hurlers to survive in Division 1. And if that's the sum ambition of Dublin hurling now, there's something seriously wrong, after where we've brought it to over the last ten years.

Listen to the full interview on Off the Ball. 

See Also: Why Semple Stadium Was Omitted From The Rugby World Cup Bid

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