THE "will he or won’t he?" saga surrounding Pat Gilroy’s future continues after Eamon Fennell admitted there is a "big fear" that the Dublin football manager could walk away after bringing Sam Maguire back to the capital.
Fennell is now a St Vincent’s club-mate of Gilroy, following his switch from O’Toole’s after a protracted club transfer wrangle. But the Dublin departure of another Vin’s stalwart - coach Mickey Whelan - has fanned fears that the manager could also be about to leave on an All-Ireland high.
“The first thing for us now is trying to convince Pat to stay on,” declared Fennell, speaking at the launch of the GAA’s Charity of the Year, ‘Playing for Life’, who are sending a host of GAA stars to Ethiopia to help build a sports centre.
“It is a big fear, that he’ll go. Genuinely. But I’d love for him to stay on,” the powerhouse midfielder added.
“I have so much respect for him. He’s been successful in every part of his life. I’ve learnt so much from him, and want to continue to learn from him.
“We’ve lost Mickey (Whelan) already, and we don’t want anyone else to go. We’re after getting so far with this, we’d like to keep it together, and see what else we can do.
“Definitely there’s more in us. So many lads that didn’t get a run the last day. Or lads who had injuries that only flourished towards the end.
“Their chance will come now in the winter and, after seeing what the lads did, (they) will want a piece of that.”
Highlighting Gilroy’s managerial influence, Fennell revealed: “Under Paul Caffrey my game was to win high ball. That was number one, and the rest would follow. But Pat has really expressed what he wants me to do as a midfielder. To get my tackle count up, up and down the pitch a bit more.
“Pat has really pointed me in the right direction, to become an all-round footballer, and the great thing about the Dublin team at the moment is that there are people there to help you all the time, on the pitch and off the pitch. Some of us need that help at times.”
Fennell primarily played the role of impact sub this summer; he insists this didn’t detract from his delight at winning an All-Ireland but he’s determined to redouble his efforts in a bid to nail down a starting place next season.
“Genuinely it wasn’t a feeling of regret that I only got 10 minutes (in the final). I was happy to get 10 minutes because you look at the bench and there were lads that didn’t get any minutes,” he pointed out.
“I’m going to do all the work now in the pre-season, I had a taste for it and I want to start.
“There’s no point in playing football if you are going to be happy sitting on the bench. I want to start and I am going to do everything to be in the first 15.”
Fennell has also disclosed how another St Vincent’s colleague - Diarmuid Connolly - drove him on to win the late ‘hop ball’ that eventually led to Stephen Cluxton’s match-winning free against Kerry in the All-Ireland final.
Facing Kieran Donaghy, the statistical odds may have been stacked against Fennell. But he revealed: “Diarmuid Connolly was roaring in my face before, saying ‘if you don’t win this I’m going to kill you’ ... so he put the fear in me.
“Whoever really wanted that ball more was going to get it, and I had too many people in my face around me. The fear was in me to win it. He (Donaghy) is a good bit taller than me, but it was just going to be a matter of who was going to out-muscle who.”