Wednesday 25 April 2018

Comment: He might not be a traditional 'hurling man', but Pat Gilroy is exactly what the Dublin team need

22 July 2012; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
22 July 2012; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

You could be forgiven if your first thought was of Southampton's ill-fated Woodwardian experiment of bringing in a top rugby coach and placing him at the top of the tree at an association football club.

World Cup-winner Clive Woodward flamed out quickly as Director of Football at the Saints but that shouldn't deter Dublin GAA from at least considering a similarly bold proposal.

There doesn't appear to be much behind Boylesports' decision to suspend betting on Pat Gilroy, the All-Ireland-winning football manager, from making an inter-county return with the Dublin hurlers besides a flurry of speculative punts, but once you get past the faintly ridiculous premise, the appointment makes sense on multiple levels.

While there may still be hope among Dublin supporters that a manager of the stature of Davy Fitzgerald or Derek McGrath can be lured to the capital, the hurling team could really benefit from Gilroy coming in and implementing a high performance culture that will last even when he steps away.

The renowned businessman could essentially be the Dublin hurling team's CEO, assembling a team of top coaches to work with the players while overseeing the training sessions and building a strong environment similar to what he achieved with the footballers after taking over in 2008.

The team he inherited almost ten years ago were at a low point, having been destroyed by Tyrone in an All-Ireland quarter-final. Gilroy came in and completely changed the dynamic of the team - what time they trained, how the dealt with the media, how they celebrated on the pitch and a host of other things.

Success wasn't instant - the startled earwigs of 2009 - but Gilroy gradually helped build a sustainable model of excellence that still thrives today.

The Dublin hurling team is in a great position for someone to come in and achieve an instant bounce. Ger Cunningham's final season was disastrous results-wise, but the young players blooded during 2017 will be better for the experience next year.

Gilroy's status in the GAA is such that not only would he command instant respect from the new crop of players, but the many talented hurlers who made themselves unavailable for Cunningham would likely want to be a part of the ultra-professional set-up that the All-Ireland-winning manager's presence would create.

As for his hurling credentials, Gilroy comes from a strong dual club in St Vincent's, but wouldn't need to be coaching corner backs on better techniques to hook opposition forwards anyway.

Gilroy showed an aptitude for selecting his backroom team when over the footballers, bringing in veteran coach Mickey Whelan with Dublin, who helped unearth a few unknown gems while improving the team's skill-set.

Joe Brolly has called Gilroy a visionary and says that he should have been appointed GAA Director General ahead of Paraic Duffy - that sort of stature would immediately lend Dublin hurling the credibility it has lost since Anthony Daly's departure in 2014.

Cuala manager Mattie Kenny appears to still be in the box-seat to take on the role after leading the club to an All-Ireland, and is the most deserving candidate on paper, but rolling the dice on Gilroy is worth the risk.

The 45-year-old has a track record of excellence in business and in sport, and the scope of his ambition could be what brings Dublin hurling to the top table - and helps them stay there for years to come.

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