Sunday 15 December 2019

Carr backs Farrell to make the move from minor to major

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Chided in the past for their tardiness on big-match days in Croke Park, you can be sure that there will be a few extra Dubs in situ by midday tomorrow.

While there has been a buzz about the county minors since their clinical dismissal of Kildare in the Leinster semi-final, it's the x-factor surrounding the manager that could keep the crowd out of the pub and into the ground for the young Dubs showdown with old rivals Meath.

After several years of doing battle in the boardrooms at Jones's Road, Dessie Farrell is back where he first made his name tomorrow afternoon -- on the Croke Park pitch.

They've seen him in the jersey for the Dubs and in his suit on Gaelic Players Association (GPA) duty -- now it's time to see how Farrell makes the grade in the tracksuit of the 'Bainisteoir.'

For more than a decade the Na Fianna man struck a talismanic figure at the core of the blue machine. He was there for the highs and the lows, a consistently classy forward and a fans' favourite.

Now, as he he returns to his theatre of dreams, Farrell (below) will have to take a step back and observe when the man in black blows his whistle. His preparations are complete and it is time for his minor footballers to take centre stage.

Those rubber-necking will not see a manager patrolling the line, roaring at his players and instructing their every move.

As his former team-mate and manager Tommy Carr explains, he has always led by example rather than through fire and brimstone.

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"He's not the type of guy who starts jumping up and down on tables, throwing jerseys and balls and that type of thing," says the man who thought so much of Farrell's leadership skills, he made him captain in 1998.

"While Dessie would be quiet in his approach to matters, he would be very listenable to, very precise in getting a point across.

"Fellahs would listen to him, absolutely.

"He would have a tone of voice and would be very meticulous and very accurate in what he was saying.

"A big thing for most players would be that the manager would be genuine about what he is saying and Dessie would be very genuine."

Farrell took charge of this group of players when they were in their early teens and as a strong advocate of the system of keeping the same bunch together all the way up, has nurtured them ever since.

He has the job for a further two years, but this season's crop is a talented one, which has racked up 5-49 in wins over Westmeath, Longford and Kildare.

The big scorelines are not an example of all-out attack, though, Farrell's team's ethic is based on hard work. However, with the likes of dual stars Ciaran Kilkenny and Cormac Costello, the young manager has the talent to work with and they go into tomorrow's final with the Royals as odds-on favourites.

Ever the politician, Farrell made a statement by withdrawing Kilkenny during the second half of the semi-final win with the full-forward on 12 points, thus keeping the hurlers sweet for their own Leinster final.

That savvy comes from his battle with the County Board over Carr's sacking, his early involvement in the GPA and then his role as chief executive of the player group.

There was a time when his former boss Carr felt Farrell's off-field involvement might have prevented a move into management.

"I thought the two roles might be difficult, there's no doubt about that, because you're treading a thin line between players and officialdom," Carr said.

"But more importantly, the fact that he was willing to stand up and take the side of players will endure and endear players to Dessie more than somebody else."

Tomorrow the watching Dubs will all be wondering the same thing -- is he cut out for the big job?

Carr reckons it's early days, but the qualities are there.

"Does he have the potential to do the senior job? Yes absolutely," he says, delivering an endorsement that will be music to the Hill's ears.

Irish Independent

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