Kenny's belated shot at blue rule

Dublin chiefs swayed by all-conquering Cuala CV

THE MAN WITH THE PLAN: Newly-appointed Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny made a huge success of his time as Cuala boss. Pic: Sportsfile

Frank Roche

It's safe to surmise that Mattie Kenny has an all-consuming desire to manage the Dublin hurlers.

Why else stick your head above the parapet when you'd been overlooked for the very same position just a year before?

"He wanted the job," confirms Dublin chairman Seán Shanley, "to step up from club level." And clearly, based on Saturday's announcement that Kenny is the anointed successor to Pat Gilroy, the county board wanted him too.

So, the Galway man who has achieved more success with a Dublin club than any manager in history has his belated chance to leave his own inter-county mark in the capital.

Opportunity comes to he who waits; or, in the case of Kenny, to the manager who keeps on winning. Last autumn, in a straight shootout between Gilroy and Kenny for the hotseat vacated by Ger Cunningham, the former prevailed.

In such circumstances, many other beaten candidates might have privately vowed to leave it at that. Kenny simply redoubled his efforts to get the best out of his adopted Cuala - over the next several months, he led them in successful defence of their AIB Leinster and All-Ireland crowns.

In all likelihood, he might well have presumed there would be no Dublin vacancy for the foreseeable future. But Gilroy's surprise resignation, forced by the constraints of overseas work, opened a window of opportunity once more.

Over the past seven weeks, the mantle of favouritism has passed at different stages from Anthony Cunningham (the former Galway manager and a key plank of Gilroy's management team) to Anthony Daly (who led Dublin to historic league and Leinster glory during his previous six-year reign) ... but the committee entrusted with this pivotal decision has ultimately been swayed by Kenny's incredible CV with Cuala.

Track Record

"Basically his track record," Shanley confirmed yesterday, asked why they had chosen the former Galway selector. "He knows Dublin hurling now; he's here for the last five years. Three Dublin championships and two All-Irelands. Yeah, that's the reason we went for him."

The chairman referenced another consideration that will make the new manager's job less complicated when he said: "He hasn't got the burden of Cuala 'til next March, which he had last year."

Cuala's Dublin semi-final defeat to Kilmacud Crokes meant there would be no 'double-jobbing' dilemma in the event of his appointment. By the same token, Kilmacud's county final replay loss to Ballyboden St Enda's meant there was no such complication for Daly either.

But whereas the charismatic Clareman was being touted as favourite just a fortnight ago, Kenny has come with a decisive burst to win a three-year term.

His management team has yet to be finalised but Greg Kennedy - the former Galway hurler and Kenny's trusted sidekick at Cuala - is sure to have a central role.

The hope is that more Cuala players will get involved in the coming year. Just four members of the club's glittering cast - Seán Moran, Cian O'Callaghan, David Treacy and Jake Malone - enlisted with Gilroy's championship panel.

Circumstances, in the guise of injury issues, study commitments and the need for a rest after two unbroken years on the club treadmill, doubtless played a part. But whereas Con O'Callaghan and Mark Schutte have been committed to Jim Gavin's footballers and Paul Schutte has been sidelined by a serious hamstring injury, others might come back into the reckoning now.

"It was just the way they were tied up in the club championship until March. The lads had got no break and they had caught a lot of injuries," Shanley noted.

While he reckoned that Darragh O'Connell and Seán Treacy could come back into the county fray, the chairman cautioned that final year medical exams could impact on a Dublin return for Colm Cronin.