"SHOCKED," is how Philly McMahon felt when Pat Gilroy - the man who had turned his inter-county career around - announced to the panel last night he was to leave the Dublin job he has held for four years.
“It was a huge surprise,” the Ballymun defender told the Herald today, just hours after Gilroy delivered the news.
“I didn’t see any reason when he wouldn’t continue on. The structures he’s built and the foundation he has put in... I think everybody is just shocked.”
McMahon and the rest of the squad were informed of a meeting yesterday just three days after the Mayo defeat but the All-Ireland medalist insists none of the number were aware of Gilroy’s intentions.
“We would have been speaking after the game and there was no indication he was going to step down or the backroom team were going to step down,” he said.
“Personally, I just thought we would be going through the game, what happened, why we lost and what we would be doing for the following year. But I didn’t think he would be stepping down. I was honestly shocked.”
Gilroy outlined the reasons for his departure and thanked the players for their efforts, insisting that it was essential that they continue their endeavours for the new man.
“It’s strange. When there’s someone there for so long and they do so well and then they just say that they can’t commit to it,” McMahon admitted.
“It’s strange but you can understand because you know he’s the type of fella who would do it for the rest of his life if he could.
“But he has the kids and the business at the minute and he’s up to his eyes. I’m sure he’s been under pressure over the last two or three years.
“He said he would continue on but that he just couldn’t commit to it. He thanked us all and he said: ‘give the next man the same respect and the same commitment.’ He told us there was another one or two All-Irelands in us, so that was great.”
McMahon himself was dropped by Gilroy in his first year in 2009 before being redrafted a season later as the St Vincent’s man set about rebuilding the defence which had been blown away by Kerry that August.
“I’ve a huge amount of respect for him,” he insists. “He made me think in a different way as a player in that he got the best out of me in different ways that a lot of other managers didn’t do.
“For example, dropping me in 2009 made me a better player, believe it or not, coming into the following year.
“Even the lads would have said he would have been tough on me in training sessions but that would have got more out of me. So he knew how to treat players as well.
“He was a very good man manager. He was so good at that. He knew how players would react to the way he manages.”
In his statement, released though the county board last night, Gilroy left the door open for a possible return to the job and Mahon, for one, feels he has – through his efforts over the past four years – earned the right to come back at some future point.
“He developed a team that at one stage were fading away and getting worse rather than getting better. So he put in a foundation and there is no reason why he wouldn’t be able to come back and do it again,” he said.
“It’s not as if he didn’t win anything and people would be saying ‘why does he have the right to come back?’ He does because he won the All-Ireland with us.
“He’s helped us an awful lot and he did something no other Dublin manager did – he put in the system and turned us into a modern team.”
Despite his disappointment, McMahon is confident that the panel will kick on and heed Gilroy’s word about his replacement - highly tipped to be current Under 21 boss, Jim Gavin, although he accepts it will be “tough” for any new man to live up to the standards set by his predecessor.
“I have no doubt that because there is so much put in, it’s going to be tough for anyone to come in and replace him,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to give the next man the same respect that we gave him and push it on because no matter what, we’re going to be the players that will be there,” he added.
“And we have to give what we can for the new man.”