Monday 24 July 2017

Legends Dooher, Whelan step out of GAA limelight

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

TWO legendary figures stepped away from the GAA limelight yesterday.

Brian Dooher, who captained Tyrone to two All-Ireland titles, called time on his phenomenal 16-year inter-county senior career, and Mickey Whelan stepped down from his central role in the Dublin footballers' back-room team.

Tyrone immediately paid tribute to their Captain Fantastic, with county PRO Damien Harvey saying Dooher had an "unrelenting drive and very special leadership qualities".

"The Tyrone GAA family will remember him forever as someone who worked harder than anyone has ever worked to succeed in a Tyrone jersey," Harvey added.

Dooher (36) took over the Tyrone captaincy after the tragic death of Cormac McAnallen in 2004.

He has held their skipper's armband ever since, playing a key role in all three of their All-Ireland triumphs and captaining them in '05 and '08.

"Without a doubt Brian was one of the all-time greats, the first man to lift two Sams, you can't say anything more than that," said Tyrone chairman Ciaran McLaughlin.

"There's been no better servant to Tyrone football and hopefully those coming after him will take inspiration from him and perform at the same levels."

There has been speculation that the meek way Tyrone bowed out to Dublin in this year's quarter-finals would prompt a raft of Red Hand retirements, but so far the Clann na nGael veteran is the only man to step down.

Dooher was the prototype covering forward, whose all-action style was vital to Tyrone's success and, as well as three All-Irelands, he won five Ulster senior titles, two National Leagues and three All Star awards.

He battled back from serious injuries to regain a starting role this year but was used as an impact sub in the late stages of the championship -- he came off the bench against Dublin.

In Dublin, Whelan's decision to bow out after their long-awaited All-Ireland success has increased fears that their winning manager Pat Gilroy may yet decide so step down.

If Gilroy goes, it would leave the capital in the same position that they were in back in 1995, when Dr Pat O'Neill stepped down after managing them to their last title.

It was Whelan who stepped in then to take over as manager, but he was hounded out of the job two years later when the Dubs failed to replicate their success of '95.

The 72-year-old, an avid student of sport science and coaching techniques, completed a PhD in recent years and has always embraced new training ideas.

Whelan was re-introduced to the inter-county scene by St Vincent's clubmate Gilroy when he took over three years ago and is credited with playing a key role in the Dubs' recent success.

unrelated

Whelan stressed yesterday that his decision to step down was unrelated to Gilroy's future plans.

"I'm gone, it's time for me to go and it's a good way to finish," Whelan said.

"There's a lot of people that'd like to be involved and I don't want to stand in their way, but I couldn't say what Pat will do, that's a personal thing for him.

"He has young kids and he's a great father. Whatever decision Pat makes I'll stand behind him."

Gilroy has already indicated that he will take the best part of a month, and consult with his family, before deciding if he will stay on.

Several prominent ex-Dublin players have already called for their winning manager to stay on in order to bring continuity to the county now that they are back in football's pole position.

Elsewhere, former Dublin footballer Jack Sheedy has been linked with the managerial vacancy in Offaly.

He is believed to be one of three candidates, along with former county seniors Tom Coffey and Stephen Darby, to replace Tom Cribbin.

Irish Independent

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