Gilroy's new broom sure to sweep clean
Published 10/10/2008 | 00:00
IN Dublin they say you often wait for a bus for ages and then two or three arrive at the same time and Pat Gilroy probably knows that feeling.
After drifting away from the public eye for many years, he emerged recently as being on the shortlist for the GAA's top executive position, Director General.
The post went to Paraic Duffy, but a few months later along comes an equally high-profile appointment, manager of the Dublin football team.
Several of the great and the good of the pantheon of Dublin GAA legends were touted for that job, as were ludicrous suggestions such as Jack O'Connor, Paidi O Se and Sean Boylan. Dublin was always going to have a Dublin-based manager -- and rightly so.
So, out comes Pat Gilroy from the GAA shadows for the second time in a year and this time he has won the prize. And what a prize.
When it comes to naming Dublin managers ever since the days of Kevin Heffernan anything is possible, so nobody should have been very surprised about this one. What makes Gilroy different from most of his predecessors, though, is the low profile from which he has emerged -- maybe no bad thing.
Before Paul Caffrey we had the likes of Tony Hanahoe, Robbie Kelleher, Brian Mullins, Gerry McCaul, Paddy Cullen, Pat O'Neill , Mickey Whelan, Tom Carr and Tommy Lyons and what a cameo of big names that provided.
Gilroy, on the other hand, has been out of the limelight in Dublin GAA while prominent in his own St Vincent's club. His father Jackie spent his playing career in the company of some of the greatest names in football, from Des Foley to Kevin Heffernan and many, many others. Jackie was never a star in that context, but an honest worker who held his own with all the greats without having his name in lights.
That is the background from which Gilroy steps onto the big stage and that demeanour will serve him well. His playing credentials are more than adequate to be a manager, but it is his other qualities that will make or break him as Dublin seek to end a quarter of a century in which the county has only won one All-Ireland title -- in 1995.
Some of the qualities he will need include strong personal leadership skills, good communication skills with the players, the public and the media, a complete re-assessment of the current roster of players on the Dublin panel, the cultivation of players with strong personal responsibility and leadership qualities, and a realistic approach to the merits of Dublin football at present.
This is a very demanding list and no doubt Gilroy himself has more to add, but according to information which emerged at the time of the final interviews for the Director General position, he has a very high intellect, is strongly motivated and highly organised as boss of his own company, so the omens are good at this early stage.
We can expect a completely different approach to preparation of the team under Gilroy. There's unlikely to be about 15 'civilians' on duty at Croke Park as part of the backroom team, as in recent years. There are unlikely to be any gimmicks, we may even get more accurate pre-game information about line-ups and generally, dare one say it, there might be a retro approach to how the Dublin team sets about its task.
If Mickey Whelan is to be the coach/trainer, it will be a major test for him and the rest of the set-up. His previous foray as Dublin manager has not been forgotten by the fans, but Mickey is the sort of bubbly and honest man who will not be upset about that. He will have the boyish enthusiasm of a young fellah and he was always a very good coach. That said, his arrival into a key position with the modern Dublin players is something of a gamble.
Some in Dublin will be concerned about the perceived influence of the St Vincent's club, but history shows that over the last 40 years that was much more of a help than a hindrance to Dublin teams. There is little doubt that Kevin Heffernan himself would have a big influence in this appointment, but what county board would not have been very happy to avail of his expertise?
Overall, Gilroy looks a different style of Dublin manager, more low profile -- if that is ever possible with Dublin -- and now in a strong position to develop a different style of play for the team. That in itself must be an exciting prospect for Dublin fans and they haven't had long to wait to focus their minds on the task ahead.
That was done last Wednesday when the Leinster SFC draw paired Dublin against Meath in next year's summer opener. That Dublin seat is already getting hot for Pat Gilroy -- and hotter still for several players of the past couple of years.