Gilroy throws down gauntlet as Dubs start a new season
IF 2011 was the year of living dangerously for the Dubs as they negotiated their way through the championship by some extremely narrow margins, then 2012 is the year of double desire.
The only similarity to 12 months ago is that once again New Year's Day and the annual 'Evening Herald'/Dublin Bus Dubs Stars match signals the end of the Christmas pud and turkey season and the beginning of another long campaign.
Tomorrow at the Thomas Davis GAA club grounds in Kiltipper Road, Tallaght, a Dublin football selection and a hurling squad will play the respective Dubs Stars teams, which comprise the cream of performers from the club scene.
While the All-Ireland champions have yet to kick a ball in anger this season, Pat Gilroy's backroom team has already begun a process of change.
Gilroy's ally and team coach Mickey Whelan stepped down after the All-Ireland final victory over Kerry, while performance coach Caroline Currid has also moved on.
A successor to Whelan has not yet been announced but Gilroy took his time about making his own decision to stay on for 2012 and won't feel under any undue pressure to rush into naming a replacement.
The big St Vincent's man, the first manager to bring the Sam Maguire Cup to the capital since Pat O'Neill in 1995, has already thrown down the gauntlet to his players.
Retaining the All-Ireland is a rare feat. Only one team in each of the last three decades has achieved it -- Meath in 1988, Cork in 1990, and Kerry in 2007 -- so Gilroy is demanding a higher level of performance this year.
"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."
On one level, the Dubs Stars matches give players a chance of an early season run-out, particularly as the O'Byrne Cup match away to Carlow on Sunday, January 8 signals the beginning of competitive football.
However, the fixtures also afford club players a chance to catch the eye of Gilroy and his hurling counterpart, Anthony Daly.
Regarding the footballers, Gilroy is open-minded and determined not to allow anyone rest on their laurels.
"Certainly it would do a disservice to any club man if you didn't bring him in now when he's playing well," he said.
"There's no sacred cows. Nobody can think 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."
Among the likely lads who will hope to challenge for a regular starting place this year is the talented and versatile Sean Murray (pictured below).
Murray can play in the full-back line, the half-backs or midfield, and had a very good season with St Brigid's during their run through the Dublin championship and to the Leinster final, where they lost by a point to Garrycastle of Westmeath.
He's studying theoretical physics at Trinity College Dublin, and won an U-21 All-Ireland medal with Dublin in 2010.
Last season he played O'Byrne Cup and league but didn't get either a start or part of a match as a substitute in the championship; however, Murray has time on his side. He's one of the younger element who will be pushing the more experienced Dublin team members for their place this year, and that process begins tomorrow.
Like his football counterpart, Dublin hurling manager Daly will be hoping that the curtain-raiser between his charges and the Dub Stars hurling team will throw up a player for the future, though the Clare native already knows what most of tomorrow's opposition are capable of.
The throw-in for the hurling match is at 1.30 and the football game is set to start at 3.15. Admission is €10 for adults and €5 for children. The Dublin football and hurling teams will be announced on the day.
Dubs Stars 2011 -- Hurling: G Maguire (Ballyboden St Enda's); M Cussen (St Brigid's), D Spain (Ballyboden St Enda's), G O'Meara (O'Toole's); M Travers (Ballyboden St Enda's), S Nolan (Ballyboden St Enda's), K Ryan (O'Toole's); M Carton (O'Toole's), S Durkin (Ballyboden St Enda's); P McAvinue (St Brigid's), C McCormack (Ballyboden St Enda's), S Stapleton (St Patrick's Palmerstown); P Ryan (Ballyboden St Enda's), L Ryan (O'Toole's), K O'Reilly (Lucan Sarsfields).
Football: S Supple (St Brigid's); G Norton (St Brigid's), S Lyons (St Oliver Plunkett's), Martin Cahill (St Brigid's); A Hubbard (Ballymun Kickhams), S O'Shaughnessy (Lucan Sarsfields), G Kane (St Brigid's); B Cahill (St Brigid's), R McConnell (St Oliver Plunkett's/ER); D Matthews (St Oliver Plunkett's/ER), J Murtagh (Parnells), Mark Cahill (St Brigid's); T Brennan (Lucan Sarsfields), K Darcy (St Brigid's), B Brogan (St Oliver Plunkett's/ER).