Thursday 22 February 2018

James McCarthy backs Pat Gilroy in new hurling role - but warns to keep hands off Diarmuid Connolly and other football stars

James McCarthy, left, and Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin lift the Sam Maguire
James McCarthy, left, and Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin lift the Sam Maguire

Sam Wheeler

James McCarthy has backed his former manager Pat Gilroy to transform the Dublin hurlers' fortunes - but told him to keep his hands off the county football panel.

There has been speculation that All-Ireland-winning former football boss Gilroy will target some of the dual stars in Jim Gavin's panel: Diarmuid Connolly, Con O'Callaghan and Ciarán Kilkenny are among the accomplished hurlers who have opted for the big ball at inter-county level.

Footballer of the Year nominee McCarthy says he would be surprised if Gilroy didn't approach some of the star names, but doesn't foresee any high-profile switches. Even so, he expects the Dublin hurlers to make big strides.

"I hope he stays away! I'd love to see the hurlers do well, but try and stay away from our group!" he said.

"I'd say Pat will be looking for every guy he can. If he gets back the guys that have been missing, the likes of Danny Sutcliffe, I think they'll become very competitive again. I think they'll be a very hard team to beat next year.

"Pat will bring a great organisation, he'll bring a bit of unity, toughness, all that. He's a great manager.

"With Pat, it's about mindset, really. We had come off heavy losses and defeats in big games, and he just wanted the team to be really hard to beat, tough to play against, mentally strong - they are areas I'd imagine he'll go after with the hurlers as well.

"He was very good looking after me personally at the start - he put a lot of faith in me. He gets you wanting to play for him. He let you find your feet.

Galway's Gearóid McInerney and Dublin's James McCarthy with their PwC Player of the Month awards for September Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Galway's Gearóid McInerney and Dublin's James McCarthy with their PwC Player of the Month awards for September Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"The first game I played against Kerry down there, I was marking (Paul) Galvin and I was getting the run-around in the first half (in a 2010 league game). He made me play the full 70 minutes, when you'd nearly ask to be pulled off. You learn a lot from that."

Connolly is seen as the football regular most likely to be tempted to cross codes, given the frustrations he endured last summer, and the fact that he has already won five Sam Maguires.

"He's obviously playing well for Vincent's (Connolly scored 0-3 from midfield in their Dublin SHC quarter-final victory over Craobh Chiaráin), but I'd be hoping he'd continue with us, but you don't know," said McCarthy.

I've seen clips of him hurling, and he seems well able for it. But you can imagine the jump from club hurling to county is a massive leap.

"He had a frustrating summer - how could you get banned for such a long time for such a minor incident? - but he steadied the ship for us in the final and had such a big impact. He reminded everyone, in case they forgot, how important he is for our team."

McCarthy is not one of the men on Gilroy's radar, describing himself as "just a hacker" with hurl in hand.

Another sport he won't be playing is International Rules. He was invited into Joe Kernan's Ireland panel for next month's two-Test series in Australia, but pulled out because of club and work commitments, with AIB.

The PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for September, who is preparing for Ballymun Kickhams' Dublin SFC semi-final clash with Kilmacud Crokes tomorrow, fears that Ireland will never be able to field their best team in the series, with so many players, particularly from the All-Ireland finalists, being unable to spare the time to train and travel at this time of the year.

"I just haven't got the time," he said. "I would have liked to have another crack at it. Trying to get three weeks off work, I couldn't commit to doing it.

"A lot of guys have club commitments. Maybe re-jig the calendar? It's going to be a hard competition to keep going at this time of the year.

"Ireland will never put their strongest team forward. You'd love to have the best against the best and see how it goes…"

Instead, McCarthy will throw all his sporting energy into the star-studded Ballymun side's attempts to win back the Dublin crown, and go one better than their All-Ireland final defeat of 2013 - a loss to St Brigid's of Roscommon that still rankles.

"I still think about it. That is going to stay with us for a long time," he said. "We have a great side, but we have underachieved, without a doubt. To have won only one county title is disappointing, and we want to put that right. We would love to get another chance of competing outside Dublin."

Irish Independent

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