Friday 15 November 2019

Is Pat Gilroy a serious option to be the next Dublin hurling manager? Here's why it might work perfectly

4 August 2012; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Dublin v Laois, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
4 August 2012; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Dublin v Laois, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Frank Roche

COULD it really come to pass? Could Pat Gilroy become the next manager of the Dublin hurlers?

In one respect, it seems a fanciful proposition. After all, Gilroy may be an All-Ireland winning footballer (from 1995) who came back as a manager to end the county’s 16-year Sam Maguire famine in 2011 ... but this is hurling.

Same field, same scoring arrangements but, in so many other respects, light years removed.

Moreover, the St Vincent’s man doesn’t even qualify as one of those dual stars-in-the-making who opted, back in the day, for football.

But? And here’s the crux: players play, managers manage. And, in various walk of life, be it sport or business, Gilroy has shown himself to excel in the art of management.

But what about coaching? Good question, but there’s an obvious answer: in this era of bulging backroom teams, where delegation and job demarcation are crucial, a manager’s primary function is that of project overseer - and then taking ultimate responsibility for the big calls pertaining to tactics, team selection and changes on the day.

Every manager is only as good as his coach: clearly, if this saga has solid foundations, such an appointment would be doubly imperative for a manager steeped in football.

"I wouldn’t doubt his capabilities to be a manager of any sort. He’d probably need a hurling coach," reckoned Anthony Daly, former Dublin hurling boss (and potentially their next one too), when asked about the speculation this week.

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But there’s the thing: the man himself has uttered nothing in public, leaving the Donnycarney grapevine and various bookmakers to give the story oxygen.

This much is certain: it had been clear, for months, as Dublin meandered towards top-flight relegation and then relatively early championship elimination, that the county would be looking for a new hurling manager this autumn.

Ger Cunningham’s three-year term was up. The perfect storm of defections and defeats meant any lingering patience in the Corkman’s ‘Project Youth’ had evaporated.

Since his inevitable resignation, all we’ve had is silence from a county board currently consumed with All-Ireland football preparations.

But the void has been had filled by no shortage of speculation, with Cuala’s All-Ireland winning boss Mattie Kenny touted as an early favourite; with various calls for an Anthony Daly comeback; with two current managers, Wexford’s Davy Fitzgerald and Waterford’s Derek McGrath, touted as possibilities; with former Galway boss Anthony Cunningham also name-checked.

By far the most intriguing would-be candidate, though, was Gilroy. His name cropped up in the betting at the start of August, when Paddy Power made him their 7/1 fifth favourite.

A fortnight later, BoyleSports actually suspended betting on Dublin’s former football supremo due to “overwhelming demand” ... even though a mystified-sounding Dublin chairman, Seán Shanley, told The Herald: "We haven’t opened the process yet to find one."

The announcement that Fitzgerald is sticking with Wexford removed one potential candidate, however unlikely. Paddy Power still have Kenny as their 5/6 favourite while Gilroy is now quoted at 12/1, ahead of Cunningham at 14/1.

The latter is an interesting option because of his own code-hopping credentials. He is a two-time All-Ireland winning hurler (on the Galway team of 1987-88) who has earned his spurs in club football management, leading St Brigid’s of Roscommon and Garrycastle of Westmeath to provincial SFC titles.

But he’s even better known as a hurling manager: he was the man who led Galway to within touching distance of All-Ireland Everest in 2012 and 2015, only to be ousted after a player heave.

Cunningham might seem a safer bet than Gilroy - but, sometimes, left-field works.

Consider the case of Seán Boylan who, in a previous existence, was merely a former Meath hurler.

In an extract from The Boylan Years, Pádraig Lyons describes his reaction in 1982 when his famous brother (and fellow Meath defender) Mick answered a query about the identity of their new football manager.

"Seán Boylan," says Mick.


"Do you remember the little lad who was in rubbing your legs the last few matches, doing masseur. He’s the coach now."

"Well, that’s enough!"

As Pádraig explained: "I didn’t know what level he played football at, for he was known as a hurler."

Not any more.

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