Gilroy sets new Dubs benchmark
WHEN apportioning blame for Dublin's league final collapse against Cork last month, Pat Gilroy didn't exclude himself and his management team, but he insists the Dubs have learned yet another lesson the hard way.
"We went through it in minute detail very soon after the game, so we certainly picked a lot of things where we contributed to our own downfall," admitted the Dublin manager.
"We can't exclude ourselves from that, the management on the sideline -- there were decisions on the day that we made that didn't help the team in the last 20 minutes. I think we really understand what happened.
"We were unfair putting in more immature guys. They were in great form, but in the context of where that game was at, we should have put in -- even if they were defenders -- more experienced guys, for the game that it was. But it's a lesson learned for us all."
Gilroy acted swiftly in the aftermath of the league final by axing four of the five substitutes introduced at Croke Park that day, but has sprung a minor surprise by handing James McCarthy -- son of 1970s star John -- his debut at half-back for Sunday's clash with Laois.
Paul Brogan is denied a first championship start alongside his brothers Alan and Bernard, with Rory O'Carroll returning to full-back. The Kilmacud Crokes man is restored to the No 3 jersey after rejoining the panel following a period teaching in France.
But when Gilroy looks to his bench on Sunday, there'll be considerably more experience to call on than in their last competitive outing. Denis Bastick and, in particular, Tomas Quinn can consider themselves unlucky to miss out. Quinn managed 1-6 (1-4 from play) in an in-house 'Probables v Possibles' clash on Saturday and Gilroy says that having so many options is new ground for him.
"It was probably our hardest team to select so far. I'd be happier with what we have on the bench in terms of bringing fellas on and I suppose that's really important in these games.
"The five that we bring in -- and we generally have to bring in five -- are equally as important as the starting 15. It's the first time for us that we were leaving fellas off a team that were really in form.
"For the type of game we play, and the type of game most teams are playing, you do need to bring freshness in, particularly around the middle of the field.
"That's something that has failed us a little bit over the last while. We haven't really been getting enough strength into the team, but with all the fellas back, we have more options. That's very important. Not only do you really think about your starting 15, you're also thinking about the team that will finish that game.
"We're demanding an awful lot from people around the middle third, and it seems not too many of them can finish a game with the kind of intensity we are looking for. So, options are important and we do have them now, which will hopefully make a difference for us."
Eamon Fennell and Ross McConnell are "good for 20 minutes," but Sunday comes too soon for Paul Griffin, who needs to have fluid drawn from his knee, and Cian O'Sullivan, though they should be available for Dublin's next match which, win or lose, will be played on the weekend of June 25/26.
Twelve months ago, Dublin almost came unstuck in their Leinster opener, needing extra-time to get past Wexford as they struggled to adapt to Gilroy's new system.
Under Justin McNulty, Laois have adopted a similar set-up and Gilroy believes he knows what to expect on Sunday.
"I saw him managing St Brigid's (in Dublin). I played against them and they had a definitive style. Everyone was certain about what they had to do. It's hard to break down and requires a lot of effort to deal with it.
A number of Laois players play club football in Dublin. MJ Tierney and Colm Begley ply their trade with Parnells, while Brendan Quigley has recently thrown his lot in with Fingallians in Swords.
Gilroy has been impressed with how new manager McNulty has transformed the midlanders' approach to the game.
"It's brave in terms of just trying to do something different instead of staying with the status quo and he has probably had a bit of resistance to that. Changing systems is hard, but you have to stick with it. It doesn't manifest itself the way you want it to for a long, long time.
"You'll start to see bits of it, but it can be over the top when people don't know when they are supposed to be defending (or attacking).
"We struggled a bit with that in last year's league. But you can see the progression and you have to stay with it and be single-minded on it and that's probably what he (McNulty) is doing as well.
"Maybe they didn't have as clear a team plan on defence. They still could play some good football -- we played them in challenge matches -- but defensively they wouldn't have been as strong.
"They seem to have improved that considerably under him. That was something he brought to St Brigid's and they were unlucky not to win the championship.
"For Laois to be up in Division 1 is a fair achievement and they'll be dangerous because they have a lot of good players -- fellas who maybe over the last five or six years didn't achieve as much as they should have. But if we perform as we can we should win the game."
Dublin (SF v Laois) -- S Cluxton; P McMahon, R O'Carroll, M Fitzsimons; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan; MD Macauley, B Cahill; P Flynn, K McManamon, B Cullen; A Brogan, D Connolly, B Brogan.
Laois -- E Culleton; C Healy, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong, S Julian, P O'Leary; C Begley, B Quigley; D Carroll, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, MJ Tierney.