Sunday 20 August 2017

'No sacred cows' for Gilroy as he hints at staying beyond 2012

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy
Dublin manager Pat Gilroy
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Pat Gilroy may be prepared to manage Dublin beyond 2012 if his personal circumstances allow him.

And he has vowed that there will be "no sacred cows" on his team as they put their titles on the line next year.

Gilroy has been confirmed as Dublin manager for one more season, and he insisted that he wasn't able to commit for any longer.

The St Vincent's man said he always wanted to continue on in the position as long as issues with work -- he is managing director of Dalkia Ireland -- could be cleared up.

He also revealed that he has got an agreement with the Dublin County Board that they would engage in a much busier programme of club games in the months of April and May -- something Gilroy felt needed to be addressed urgently.

But beyond 2012, he insisted he should not be written out of the equation.

"I can only give a one-year commitment. The economic situation we are in changes by the week. I'd be lucky to give a week's commitment. That's a fact," he said.

"I couldn't commit to longer than that. That might change in a year's time but I just couldn't do it for a longer term than that.

"Beyond that, it will depend on what is happening in the outside world. I have to be very conscious that that is what pays the bills and that has to be the primary concern always."

However, the desire to lead Dublin was always there during the seven weeks since the All-Ireland triumph.

"It was always the case that I wanted to stay on. This is only the start of this team," he said.

"I don't think it would have been the right time (to leave) but if circumstances had demanded it I would have had to step down.

"It was always my wish to keep going. It was a reasonably complicated thing for me to sort out, just little things that all needed to be lined up.

"Work was one of the biggest things for me and obviously family was very important.

"There were things that I was involved in from a work perspective that I needed to get sorted too.

"Pretty much all of them have been put to bed and I'm lucky to have a very patient wife who supported me whatever I wanted to do. It was great to have that support at home from the off.

"Then there was just some small things with the county board as well.

"The main thing was around club fixtures, that there was a commitment to play some of the games because it suits the training schedule to get them in, and lads like to play in them.

"It has been a bit unfair on the club players, but it doesn't help the county team either that all those games are cancelled, and that was one of the main things that I wanted to get a commitment with. That was their plan and I just wanted them to stick with it.

"I'd have no problem with championship games but the big one I wanted a commitment around was that whatever they have planned they will stick to because it really suits the training programme and it really suits the lads."

Gilroy has conceded that Dublin will have to think and act differently in 2012 if they are to defend their titles successfully.

"I think you have to do more. Without question we have to improve. I mean if we do the same next year it wouldn't be good enough to win the All-Ireland," he said.

"We won the All-Ireland, let's be realistic, by a point. We were lucky to win a semi-final as well. You have to factor that into next year and really push things on and improve.

"You can't stand still. You have to do things differently."

And changes in personnel won't be an issue either as he seeks to guard against complacency.

"After going out watching club championship matches over the last few weeks, there's guys going out showing great form that they didn't last year," said Gilroy.

"Certainly it would do a disservice to any club man if you didn't bring him in now when he's playing well.

"There's no sacred cows -- (the idea) that just because you were there for 2011, you'll be there forever.

"I think that's the way it has to be and that's the only fair way to do it."

Reasons to be cheerful

Continuity

The history of replacing All-Ireland winning managers who get out at the very top isn't as scarred as you might imagine.

When Jack O'Connor stepped down after Kerry's 2006 All-Ireland triumph, Pat O'Shea stepped seamlessly into his place and Kerry retained their title.

Donal O'Grady's departure from the Cork hurlers after their '04 All-Ireland success didn't bring the house down either, as John Allen stepped up to the mark.

Dublin, though, have painful memories of what happened after their last All-Ireland title in 1995. Within three weeks Pat O'Neill had announced he was stepping down and when Fran Ryder's succession attempt didn't materialise, the continuity offered by the 1993-95 management team was gone.

Mickey Whelan's two-year spell did not go well for him, though Pat Gilroy correctly pointed out that the following year they lost to the eventual champions Meath by two points in a Leinster final.

The fall may not have been as bad as history portrays it and bearing in mind that it was a much older team that had been on the road in so many big games for the previous five or six years, it could have been a slide waiting to happen anyway.

But continuity provides a familiarity that the players find comfort in.

Personnel

Dublin may lose a few players who have given long service but operate on the periphery more and more in recent years and may realise that the prospect of frontline involvement is receding.

Mossy Quinn, David Henry, Paul Casey and Declan Lally fall into this category. But if they do decide to move on, their places on the squad will be quickly snapped up by players who have featured prominently in the Dublin club championship and on the teams that claimed All-Ireland U-21 and Leinster minor titles over the last two years.

If Ross O'Carroll can put injury behind him, he can challenge just about anyone in defence. Nicky Devereux's accident early in the year set him back, but his pace and athleticism could provide a serious option again.

Gary Sweeney and Dean Rock from the 2010 U-21 team could progress, while Davy Byrne, Gavin McIntyre and Philly Ryan showed in the club championship that they could make the step up.

Much interest will also focus on dual player Ciaran Kilkenny's next move. The star of Dessie Farrell's minor team may have his head turned by the football squad, so a quick move on him is expected.

In terms of personnel Dublin have no concerns about the future and Gilroy has kept a very close eye on player development at all levels.

Confidence of ending 16-year wait

Dublin didn't play like a team with the weight of 16 years of failure on their back.

The manner of their victories over Donegal and Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final and final -- they came from behind in the last quarter in both -- suggested hunger was far greater than pressure.

But somewhere there had to be pressure there, somewhere the fear of more failure had to have lurked.

That affects performance, but now that it has been dealt with there is the prospect of really expanding their game and playing without fear. The All-Ireland quarter-final win over Tyrone is a benchmark for how they can play, Donegal is a benchmark for how they can win.



Reasons to be fearful

Keeping the feet on the ground

Seven weeks on from the All-Ireland triumph and Dublin football is still on a high. That's to be expected, given the gap being bridged and the manner of the victory.

The novelty value of having All-Ireland champions in the capital city has not yet faded and the players have been happy to oblige most of the invites that have come their way.

It is quite a celebrity trail. Most are training diligently on their own but, human nature being what it is, their heads will hardly have turned towards next year yet.

The glow is just still too good and the party continues.

At some stage those heads will have to turn to 2012 and it will be hard to let go. How quickly can they adjust to the fact that 2011 will soon be in the rear-view mirror? For Pat Gilroy, or any manager for that matter, that remains the great challenge but he's got control of similar situations before.

Now that the summit has been reached, are they satisfied?

Within a week or two of the All-Ireland win Gilroy admitted he was satisfied that his players wouldn't lapse into a comfort zone, content with one All-Ireland medal.

But the real test comes in January when those early morning alarm calls rouse them from their slumber for 6.30am training sessions in sub-zero temperatures.

Dublin aren't the only early morning risers in Gaelic football but those sessions became the emblem of how far they were prepared to go.

Even to stand still they must go through the whole process again, but Gilroy says even more will have to be done.

"You can't stand still. You have to do things differently. Whether it's six o'clock in the mornings or not, I don't know, but things will have to be done differently and we'll have to up our standards."

Can they do it? Can they reach those levels of fitness that had the back-room team shaking their heads in disbelief when the results of a Bangsbo bleep test came through prior to the Tyrone game last summer?

Tyrone's 2003 All-Ireland champions were much different to the 2005 All-Ireland champions. Dublin will have to adapt on the run.

Expectation

Dublin began the season as third favourites behind Kerry and Cork for the All-Ireland title.

It was a comfortable place to be.

They won't be favourites for next year's title but the level of expectancy will creep back up significantly to where it was in 2007 and 2008. The playing field in Gaelic football is levelling. Kildare and Donegal have bridged the gap with the top three and, with a changing of the guard in Tyrone, they may return with renewed enthusiasm. Defending an All-Ireland title successfully has only been achieved once in the last 21 years.

Irish Independent

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