In the absence of inter-county matches, and with most county finals still a distant speck on the autumnal horizon, there is not much to talk about in the GAA right now apart from managers coming and managers going.
Last week, the second Déise coming of Davy Fitzgerald was the story that dominated. Whereas this was a major development for Waterford, it also shunted the spotlight in another direction, straight up the east coast.
Eleven counties will compete in next year’s Liam MacCarthy race. Right now, just one of those counties is still searching for a manager – Dublin.
It is nearly six weeks since Mattie Kenny’s departure. In normal circumstances, you’d never hear stakeholders fretting about a managerial vacancy in August … but the GAA calendar has been skewed by the new split-season,
Dublin haven’t played a match since May 21, the club championship is in full flow and all talk about the next manager is completely speculative.
Maybe, just maybe, the county board will drop a bombshell announcement to match the box-office arrival of Anthony Daly, in late 2008, or even the left-field move for Pat Gilroy nine years later.
But, while Dublin GAA chiefs ponder, rivals have been acting far more decisively. Cork had replaced Kieran Kingston with Pat Ryan before you could shout ‘Up the Rebels’. Tipperary acted ruthlessly to axe Colm Bonnar – and then swiftly install Liam Cahill. Once Brian Cody called time, Kilkenny didn’t dally in their selection of Derek Lyng, their first appointment in 24 years.
Now with Waterford going back to the future with Davy, the focus switches to Dublin. There has been talk of a similar Groundhog Day move for Gilroy, yet it’s unclear whether his circumstances have changed to allow him finish what he started in 2018.
‘Dual star’ Anthony Cunningham, a coach under Gilroy, has departed Roscommon and could be on their radar. Other names floated include Eddie Brennan, Derek McGrath, even Joe Fortune, who has the Dublin club and underage CV. Only one impediment: he’s currently managing Westmeath. Fortune’s predecessor, Shane O’Brien, has also been linked.
Whoever is up next will inherit a team that had grown stale and lost its momentum towards the latter half of Kenny’s four-year tenure.
Dublin hurling has hit a fork in the road. Get this appointment right, and maybe they can be regenerated with fresh blood. But if they get it wrong?
“The fact that they’re not winning underage titles has been an issue,” says Maurice O’Brien, the former Limerick and adopted Dublin hurler under Daly. “With the population, with the quality of the club scene up there, why isn’t it progressing into a more competitive senior team?
“Even in our days they had the on days and off days, but there was more consistency. Is that a managerial thing or is it the consistency of players from underage, not reaching those success levels and maybe not expecting it of themselves at senior level? I think they’re at a crossroads completely. The thing could take an awful dip if this one doesn’t go right, I feel, for Dublin.”
O’Brien wonders is it time for someone from the ‘Dalo’ generation, “the Conal Keaneys, Stephen Hineys, Johnny McCaffreys of this world, to take that plunge and create that connection back with that team? You had great leaders there, and they’re not being mentioned.”
Former Dublin boss Humphrey Kelleher argues that the focus should be on bringing in a full-time director of hurling because there is no short-term fix.
“A new manager, whoever he is, is not going to make much of a difference in real terms,” Kelleher claims.
“You might get a couple of National League wins but we are not capable – sadly – of being able to compete against the top three or four counties in the country.
“Hurling is an extraordinarily skilful sport, and therefore you have to get extraordinary, skilful coaches to coach the coaches to the level that we need to be.
“If you just take Limerick and look at what they’ve done, the blueprint is there for everybody to see.
“I know they’re clichés, but if you keep doing the same bloody thing we’re going to end up with the same results. And that’s what Dublin are at, at the moment.
“So whoever comes in, I’ll be rooting for him. But I think he’s really on a hiding to nothing in terms of Dublin hurling into the near future.”