Sunday 21 July 2019

'It's crucial to get the right manager to drive things on' - O'Dwyer

Retired star O'Dwyer fears regression and feels that time is of the essence to replace Gilroy at Dublin hurling helm

Bolt from the blue: Pat Gilroy was a left-field appointment when he was given a three-year term with the Dublin hurlers. Photo: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
Bolt from the blue: Pat Gilroy was a left-field appointment when he was given a three-year term with the Dublin hurlers. Photo: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Shock is the overriding emotion surrounding Pat Gilroy's sudden departure from the Dublin hurling helm and Ryan O'Dwyer insists that "getting the right man is crucial" to their immediate progress.

O'Dwyer recently retired after winning league (2011) and Leinster (2013) honours during his eight seasons in Sky Blue and he was as surprised as anyone to hear that Gilroy had stepped aside after a promising first season in charge.

Given his lack of managerial experience with the small ball, the 2011 All-Ireland-winning football boss was a left-field appointment when handed a three-year term last year but early signs suggested that the St Vincent's clubman was on the right track.


Despite a disappointing league campaign, the new-look Dubs had Kilkenny on the rack in their opening Leinster SHC game before squandering a significant lead late on, while narrow defeats to Wexford and Galway, as well as a dominant defeat of Offaly, left hopes high for 2019.

However, members of this year's panel were informed of his exit over the weekend - due to unforeseen work commitments which will see him predominantly based abroad - and it frustrates O'Dwyer as he felt Gilroy was bedding in.

"There was a lot of change throughout the league and a lot of progression but as soon as it was over, everything picked up. He was finding his feet and really seeing what was around him with regards to players," O'Dwyer said.

"He developed as the year went on and the game-plans progressed. It was clear he was getting comfortable in the hurling role and you could have really seen the rewards of that next year, so it is a setback."

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The 32-year-old outlined the "positive atmosphere" created by Gilroy - which included replicating his successful early-morning sessions with the footballers - and the resounding buy-in from players with stalwarts like Conal Keaney and Johnny McCaffrey returning to the scene having left during Ger Cunningham's reign.

"Everyone bought into him. I honestly think it was a mixture of fear and respect. You respected what he has achieved both as a player and manager and professionally but there was also an aura about him," the Kilmacud Crokes forward said.

"We had a get-together the day before a league game and I was starting to feel a cold coming on. The last thing I wanted to do was tell him I had to miss it because he gives you this look and that's when you s*** your pants. Respect was the main thing coming through and you didn't want to let him down."

It leaves Dublin chiefs facing a race against time to find a successor and the Tipperary native, who played with the Premier for three years from 2007-2009 before moving to the capital, is under no illusions that they could take one step forward and two back if the position isn't filled by the right candidate.

"If the right person is put in that can hit the ground seamlessly and continue on with Gilroy's work then you could see things stepping forward then, but it would have to be the right person," he said.

"It has to be the right man for the transition to continue, otherwise you're nearly starting out again. With someone coming in, whether it is someone that was involved this year or in the past, the transition has to be as seamless as possible."


With the Dublin SHC quarter-finals taking place this weekend, O'Dwyer feels "time is of essence" or they risk playing catch-up right from the get-go and they are already chasing their tails somewhat.

"The most amount of games the new manager will probably get to see is three games so time is of the essence. You can't be waiting around and resting on your laurels but it's not as easy as just picking someone. It's very important to get the right man in."

Former Galway boss Anthony Cunningham was a coach under Gilroy and looks well-placed to challenge for the position, as does Mattie Kenny who has an intimate knowledge of the Dublin club scene having led Cuala to back-to-back All-Ireland club SHC titles and is chasing a famous three-in-a-row with the Dalkey club.

Anthony Daly's name is always spouted when the Dublin hurling post is vacant and Clare's All-Ireland-winning captain is in charge of Kilmacud Crokes which brings him back into the equation.

O'Dwyer won't be present under the next Dublin boss after stepping aside in July and like many of the same vintage exiting the inter-county scene, he longs for simpler times when more energy was focused on the pitch, rather than the meeting room.

"I'd rather just go back to 10 years ago when you just shut up and played the game," he said of calling it a day.

"Now it's meeting after meeting, that wears me out. I'd train all day but the meetings and analysis killed me."

Cunningham leads betting to succeed Gilroy in Dubs role

Anthony Cunningham - 11/10

The former Galway manager would be best-placed to offer Dublin some continuity given that he worked as a coach under Pat Gilroy's stewardship. He steered the Tribesmen to two All-Ireland finals.

Mattie Kenny - 3/1

He boasts outstanding credentials given that he steered Cuala to back-to-back All-Ireland club titles, where he remains in charge. He has inter-county experience too, having worked with Cunningham, but was overlooked for this role when Gilroy got the gig.

Anthony Daly - 10/3

Daly oversaw much of Dublin's recent hurling's revival when guiding them to breakthrough Leinster and league titles. He is still heavily involved with Dublin hurling as he is in charge of Kilmacud Crokes's senior team and he is thought to fancy another shot at inter-county management.

Joe Fortune - 20/1

Another man who would have an in-depth knowledge of the Dublin hurling scene having served as U-21 manager, where he steered the county to a Leinster title in 2016. He is currently in charge of Ballyboden St Enda's.

Others (selected) - Derek McGrath 6/1, Shay Boland 9/1, Nicky English 12/1, Davy Fitzgerald, Liam Sheedy, Mickey Whelan (all 14/1).

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