Mend fences, a new HQ and build character - Eight things Pat Gilroy must do as Dublin hurling manager
New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy has a long to-do list ahead of the 2018 season. Conor McKeon picks out the eight most pressing issues for Gilroy to address.
1. Appoint a backroom team to support him
This group is already assembled and now simply pending county board approval this weekend.
Anthony Cunningham has been in attendance at recent club championship matches and is expected to be the ‘hurling brain’ of the operation.
That he managed Galway when their rivalry with Dublin was at its flintiest may make for an interesting early dynamic with some older players.
Mickey Whelan could also be involved after spending the last two years training the St Vincent’s senior hurlers, leaving at least one ‘Dublin hurling’ member and possibly a logistics man to establish balance.
Under Ger Cunnigham, team trainer, Tommy Dunne, lasted just a few weeks and was never replaced. Selectors, Gearóid Ó Riain and Shay Boland, went after one season. If ever a squad craved stability from above, it’s this one.
2. Establish a new headquarters
The benefit of Gilroy’s foresight in building ‘The Bunker,’ in St Clare’s in DCU is still being enjoyed by the Dublin footballers today.
“It’s not good for a team to keep moving around, the logistics of it, or even just the camaraderie of it are difficult when you don’t have that specific base,” he observed on Tuesday.
During Anthony Daly’s time, the team trained in Bray Emmets for a year and while Cunningham set up camp in DCU, they were mostly shared facilities.
It may be that the hurlers set up a permanent residence in the GAA’s Centre of Excellence in Abbotstown, where they already use the gym that was kitted out using Dublin County Board finances.
3. Build a squad with no preconceptions
Bring them all back? Persist with the younger players?
Which, if any, footballers to pursue?
Gilroy hinted at his first press conference as Dublin manager than he could repeat the divisional trial tournament he conducted with the county’s wannabe inter-county footballers in 2009 between now and the start of next season.
It is only logical that Gilroy harbours no preconceptions about any hurler in Dublin.
By his own stated estimation, there are roughly “50 players who are technically very competent,” to play at this level.
Going on the evidence of his previous actions, he will seek out the mentally strongest, most committed characters among them.
4. Mend fences broken during last regime
THE likelihood is that the squad he settles on will contain some players that walked away from Cunningham’s squad and others that remained.
Each group is sure to contain grievances about the actions of the other. Gilroy cultivated an intense bond between the Dublin footballers and dismantled pre-existing dressing-room cliques
Something similar will be required now.
5. Build the character that is required
You can’t suffer 14 and 27-point championship defeats and endure relegation without shedding something by way of confidence.
In the winter of 2009/10 Gilroy set about implanting a rod of steel through a Dublin football team that had had similar atrocities inflicted on them by Kerry.
“It was a lousy winter that year,” recalled David Hickey, a selector that year.
“They started training at six in the morning out by Clontarf and the Bull Wall and there was snow on the ground.
“They worked and worked and a lot of guys left but he ended up with a core of fellas who bought into it.”
Gilroy argued at the time that the pre-dawn sessions were practical but they also weeded out the players who weren’t quite committed enough or couldn’t endure the hardship.
6. Design a game-plan from the back
NATURALLY, this depends on the sort of players populating the Dublin squad but post-earwig in 2009, Gilroy sought to construct a physically imposing team playing a style built on the foundations of hard work and strong defence.
Given the number of accomplished defenders he should have at his disposal, the humiliating recent defeats and the current tactical zeitgeist among the top hurling teams, building from the back seems the most pertinent course of action here too.
7. Attack the League with gusto
THE last three League winners have done so from Division 1B.
This year, three of the four semi-finalists came from the competition’s second rung.
Dublin have Galway at home on February 25, the same weekend the footballers are in Mayo - ergo, the likelihood is that they will host the All-Ireland champions in Parnell Park.
In 2010 and ’11 Gilroy used the league to shape his team, accelerate momentum and build confidence. Similar opportunities present themselves in 1B next spring.
8. Home is where the... draw decides
Tonight’s draw for this year’s Leinster SHC will determine simply which two Leinster teams Dublin host at home
and which they will travel to play.
Doubtless, Dublin’s chances of making the All-Ireland quarter-finals have been enhanced by the new provincial structure that guarantees three Leinster teams in the last eight.
On the one hand, it’s crucial they begin to play and win with regularity in the unique surrounds of Croke Park.
On the other, however, they have a far better chance of making next year’s All-Ireland Series if they play their designated ‘home’ Leinster SHC matches in the more rustic, claustrophobic confines of Parnell Park.