Tuesday 10 December 2019

'It hasn't been an issue. There was nothing to heal - Pat Gilroy says there is no player rift with Dublin

Pat Gilroy with selector Anthony Cunningham and goalkeeping coach Brendan McLoughlin during the match against Meath. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Pat Gilroy with selector Anthony Cunningham and goalkeeping coach Brendan McLoughlin during the match against Meath. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When the history of Pat Gilroy's spell as Dublin hurling manager is written, their win over Meath in Abbotstown, their first competitive game, will hardly get a mention.

Still, it was on a freezing January Wednesday night this week where the latest chapter of the small-ball game began in the capital.

Dublin were much too strong for their neighbours, hitting four goals and keeping a clean sheet.

In truth, little could be read into the 70 minutes of action but at least the experiment is officially up and running.

It will pick up pace this weekend, too. Tomorrow they'll face Tipperary in a challenge match in Dr Morris Park in Thurles. Sunday sees them take on Antrim in the Walsh Cup.

Whatever happens in the next few months, Dublin's fortunes - and whether Gilroy can revive them - are likely to be one of the stories of the hurling year.

Things are already looking up. The likes of former All-Star Danny Sutcliffe is back from exile having last been seen on the county stage playing football for New York.

Former captain Johnny McCaffrey returned to the jersey on Wednesday night. Peter Kelly and Shane Durkin trained before the Meath game.

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For various reasons, none of them have been available to the Dubs over the last couple of seasons under Ger Cunningham.

They are back on board and Gilroy insists there's no animosity between those who soldiered for the last couple of uninspiring seasons and those who stepped away.

"No, honestly," he replied when asked if there was a rift to heal between last year's squad and the returning players.

"They're a group who have committed to training and have trained very hard for the bits that we have done.

"It hasn't been an issue. There hasn't been a ripple of anything. There was nothing to heal.

"When you talk to lads who were in good form last year, they didn't get the results they wanted. But any fella that has come back is going to have to earn his place and he's going to have to work as hard as the rest of the squad, so there's no issues.

"Guys want to have the best players playing and they're quite clear on that."

Besides, Gilroy believes there was some misinformation about why certain players haven't played for Dublin of late. The Dublin manager believes some of those who stepped away had more genuine reasons rather than simply not enjoying the set-up.

"Every one of them told me why and the reasons are so varied it was of no real relevance.

"But they did tell me. A lot of them…there were assumed reasons for some of them that weren't the case.

"They had personal things where they couldn't commit to inter-county for a period of time. And unfortunately, a lot of it coincided at the same time, so people jumped to other conclusions about them."

Dublin looked fit on Wednesday night but the work will continue in that regard. Gilroy is also keen to get all of his first-choice players back on the paddock but one of the new manager's priorities was to get his walking wounded fit.

"We have an emergency ward of 10! To be honest, we took a very conscious decision in November that anyone who was carrying any sort of an injury, any kind of niggly thing that they were carrying from game to game, that they would go off and get it sorted.

"Whether it was surgery… although a lot of it was minor. So there was 10 or 11 of them that we jut bit the bullet and said, 'right, we're not going to have you limping from game to game'.

"So there is about 10 guys who are in that boat, the likes of Eamonn Dillon, Peter Kelly - fellas like that who will be back with us in the next two weeks.


"It was worth doing that to get it right so that they were fit for the year."

While Dublin will be boosted by the return of the Cuala contingent when the defence of their All-Ireland club title comes to an end, Gilroy revealed that he has yet to speak to any of those players.

"My attitude is they're getting a lot of quality games because they're playing plenty of friendlies themselves.

"It's great for the county when a club team is doing well.

"It did very well for the football team when the club sides were starting to win All-Irelands. Any success is good.

"And for us, it just gives us more of an opportunity to look at players in the league and we'll have fellas who have hopefully won another All-Ireland coming back to us at the end of March.

"So I don't see it as a problem at all.

"We've been very strict in terms of… I don't want to be causing a distraction saying to anyone 'you're in' or 'you're not in' and that putting them off.

"So we've left them. I've talked to Mattie (Kenny, Cuala manager) several times and he respects that and the players know that.

"So we'll talk to them whenever they're finished."

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