Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 25 February 2017

Should he stay or should he go?

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

As speculation continues over whether Pat Gilroy will commit himself to lead Dublin footballers in pursuit of the All-Ireland double next year, the county's overjoyed fans remain confident that it's a challenge he won't be able to ignore.

But while there are strong arguments why he should remain, he will also be mulling over whether, like Dr Pat O'Neill, who resigned after presiding over Dublin's previous All-Ireland win in 1995, the best time to get out is when Sam Maguire is wintering on Liffeyside after a long absence.

Here, we examine the arguments as to why Gilroy should press on or sign out.

Why stay?

1 The best yet to come?

Dublin won the All-Ireland with a squad where the average age of the 19 who played in the final was 25 years and four months. Remove 30-year-olds Denis Bastick and Barry Cahill and the average age drops to under 25 years. Dublin lost to the eventual All-Ireland winners in the four championships from 2007 to last year, underlining their credentials over an extended period and now that they have reached the summit they are enjoying the view.

Dublin's much-improved league form over the last two years points to a year-round consistency which the likes of Kerry, Tyrone and Cork always enjoyed during their best years. Having built a new empire, why should he walk away?

2 Why hand over to somebody else?

However good a team may be, it's never the finished article but, at the same time, winning the All-Ireland title is as good as it gets in any given year. Gilroy endured the humiliation of the 17-point defeat by Kerry in the 2009 and had to live with accusations that he hadn't solved their poor finishing problem after late fade-outs against Cork in last year's All-Ireland semi-final and again in this year's National League final.

All changed against Kerry in the All-Ireland final when Dublin showed a remarkable level of fortitude which helped wipe out a four-point deficit over the closing eight minutes. It proved that Dublin are now capable of systematically addressing whatever problems present themselves. Having freed themselves from the chains which restrained them for so long, Gilroy would believe he can expand the capability range, so why hand it all over to somebody else at a time when Dublin football has its highest stock value since autumn 1995?

3 Enjoyment/loyalty/ pressure

Gilroy went into management shortly after his playing career ended, so commitment to the cause has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. Cleary, he gets great enjoyment from his involvement with the game and would now take it onto a new level by trying to plot the two-in-a-row.

On the loyalty issue, he saw the negative impact of changing managers after Dublin's 1995 All-Ireland win and might feel that if he left now, the momentum built up over the last two seasons could be lost. Dublin haven't won the All-Ireland double since 1976-'77 and his departure might reduce the prospects of this squad emulating that.

As for pressure to stay on, it's coming from all fronts, including players, fans and county board.

Why go?

1 Get out on top

Few managers in any sport gauge the correct time to go because it's an inexact science which varies from case to case. Dr Pat O'Neill, Liam Griffin, Donal O'Grady and Jack O'Connor all quit after winning All-Ireland titles, but the last named returned two years later.

If Gilroy decides to remain on for 2012, he's effectively signing up for two years. He couldn't possibly leave if Dublin won the double next September and, if they didn't, he would be under unrelenting pressure to have another shot at regaining the title.

If Gilroy has even the slightest reservation about whether he should stay, then there's his answer because a tiny question mark now could grow into something much larger later on. When in doubt, opt out.

2 Personal Considerations

Team management is a hugely time-consuming business at all levels, let alone when you're setting out in pursuit of the two-in-a-row. The dynamic has now altered in Dublin where fans will expect another title next year, while the players face the reality that a winter's celebrations can take a heavy toll. So if Gilroy stays on, next year could be even more time-consuming.

As managing director of Dalkia Ireland, Gilroy has a hectic schedule and, as he identified in an Irish Independent last year, time management is crucial when trying to accommodate all strands of his life.

"The one thing I have to be careful with is my time and how I spend it. Football can eat into it on a number of fronts so it's important to get the balance right," he said. A break from football must carry some appeal.

3 Precedent

Kerry (2006-'07) were the only All-Ireland football double winners over the past 20 years, so the odds are against Dublin retaining the title. In itself, that's certainly not sufficient reason to step down but if Gilroy had any doubts about whether to continue it would become a factor. Also, there's the question of what objectives he set himself when he came in. If it was to win an All-Ireland after such a long wait, he may feel no need to re-programme his target-finder.

Irish Independent

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