Saturday 10 December 2016

Jason Sherlock launches defence of Dublin's backroom team

Published 20/10/2016 | 02:30

Dublin coaches and backroom staff celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Dublin coaches and backroom staff celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

For some, the photo of the Dublin backroom team all smiles on the Croke Park turf after their All-Ireland final win represented the unfair advantage they enjoy over the rest.

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There they were, 23 strong, and still missing the likes of Bryan Cullen, a full-time employee of Dublin in a role not known to exist in any other county.

Jason Sherlock insists everyone in that photo gives their time freely. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Jason Sherlock insists everyone in that photo gives their time freely. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

However, the size of their backroom isn't that far beyond what others are doing. It was soon pointed out that Tipperary had a similar number behind the scenes when they won Liam MacCarthy. And it's not uncommon for backroom teams to get well into the teens.

In any case, Jason Sherlock insists everyone in that photo gives their time freely.

The Dublin forwards coach isn't arguing that Dublin don't have a bigger war chest than anyone else but points out in the case of that photo at least, money and resources had little to do with it.

"In relation to that picture I think Jim's father was in it and maybe two or three members of the county board but everyone that was in it are volunteers as far as I know - excluding Bryan Cullen," he said.

"I don't know how many volunteers are with other counties. All know is I was asked by Jim to see if I could assist and I'm happy to do it. I don't know what's going on elsewhere.

"I understand there is always going to be that debate about Dublin and all that but as far as I'm concerned it was the same situation when I played. We had the biggest population and the biggest resources but we didn't have success."

Even the most ardent Dublin fan wouldn't argue that the money and access to expertise helps.

And Sherlock agrees the county are better organised than ever before in terms of pressing home those assets. But perhaps their greatest advantage lies now in the sheer weight of numbers available to them.

Sherlock is involved with the county U-15s and 16s at the moment and revealed that at one stage they had up to 400 youngsters out with them when they started off with those players three years ago.

Those are numbers other counties couldn't justify looking at.

"At U-15 we have (a squad of) 60 odd, at U-14 we have 90 odd. We started off at U-13 level with both groups and at some stages we had 400 players out. Again we are trying to win the hearts and minds in terms of playing for Dublin and (playing) GAA and trying to keep the net as wide as we can and encourage as many as you can to play … We have been in this process for three years but great credit has to go to Stephen O'Shaughnessy and above him John Costello for having this vision in place."

With the draw already made for the provincial championships next year, Dublin are expected to cruise to another Leinster title. But in the GAA centre of excellence in Abbotstown yesterday, the GPA and Leinster announced a partnership to assist inter-county players in their transition from playing to becoming certified coaches which in turn could help raise the standards in the rest of the chasing pack in the province.

However, Sherlock insists they haven't looked at 2017 yet and warned he knows from experience how quickly things can change.

"To be honest, we haven't given it much thought. We are still in the post-2016 period. I know you guys (the media) and sports people want to look ahead but I'm not there. But when we get there we'll have to look at it and see the physical and mental impact on the team. Knowing Jim and the players, they'll want to be the best in every match but that is for another day. We are not there yet.

"Obviously it's an exceptional group in terms of the talent that they have and what they're willing to do to perform.

Barren

"But I think the one thing that, because of the barren years that myself, Deccie Darcy, Jim Gavin, Mick Deegan to a certain extent had, that will certainly ground the team. And there's some of the players - Stephen Cluxton, Denis Bastick - they've been through it as well. So we all know there's no guarantees in sport. At the moment Dublin are in a really good space, but as we know it can change very quickly.

"I only have to look across the room (at former Meath great Trevor Giles) and my own playing career where we beat a team by ten points and the following year they beat us and won an All-Ireland. And then it took us seven years to beat them. That's how fickle sport can be."

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