Wednesday 18 September 2019

Pat Gilroy exit was like a death in the family - Eoghan O'Donnell

All Blacks Damian McKenzie, Ryan Crotty and Codie Taylor with Dublin hurler Eoghan O’Donnell and footballers Stephen Cluxton and Cormac Costello at an AIG Skills Challenge in Castleknock Golf Club. Photo: Sportsfile
All Blacks Damian McKenzie, Ryan Crotty and Codie Taylor with Dublin hurler Eoghan O’Donnell and footballers Stephen Cluxton and Cormac Costello at an AIG Skills Challenge in Castleknock Golf Club. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When Eoghan O'Donnell and the rest of the Dublin hurling panel gather this Saturday, it will be the official start of the Whitehall man's sixth season in the senior set-up. It will also be the fourth manager the 23-year-old will have played under.

Mattie Kenny's appointment filled the hole left by Pat Gilroy's departure.

The shock of his exit took time to sink in. At first he thought he was the victim of a prank, then he and a few others tried to see if there was a way to work around Gilroy's professional commitments.

When he finally accepted that Gilroy was gone, he momentarily lost his appetite for the game and the work he had been putting in.

"I had my gym programme going and I took a break from the gym for two or three weeks and left the hurl in the boot of the car," O'Donnell said.

The dust has settled now and Kenny is in place. And O'Donnell reckons the squad are ready to go again under the Galway man.

"When Pat left it was like a death in the family almost, it was a shock to everyone," O'Donnell reflected.

"We had such a good year last year and it came out of the blue completely. I was in Croatia on holiday and he phoned me - I was thinking, 'this is about physio or something', so it was like a bomb dropped. It was very disappointing.

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"Things took a while to settle down and Mattie probably was the first choice between the players - his record speaks for itself - and Cuala have been such an explosive team the last few years so players were kind of delighted to get the ball back rolling after a few weeks of not being sure what was happening.

"So, when Mattie was announced the players were delighted and are looking forward to getting back into it."

O'Donnell and a handful of other players met Kenny last Friday night ahead of the main meeting this weekend. At that meeting Kenny made it clear that Dublin are a team for the present rather than the future.

Dublin will, O'Donnell insists, look to build on the progress this year under the man who broke a glass ceiling for Dublin hurling when he steered Cuala to All-Ireland club glory.

"You can't do anything about what is gone. Mattie Kenny made it clear that this isn't a transition period, we are going to build on what happened last year and won't re-invent the wheel.

"I can't speak to the style of play but it will be the same motto of hard work and tackling that we carry forward into next year."

Needless to say the Cuala contingent are delighted with the appointment.

"It's a bit like they're a bit brainwashed, they're just saying that the sun shines from everywhere from him," he laughed.

"So we took that with a pinch of salt. When players are winning things they'll always say that this method is the best for success.

"I've only met Mattie once myself. We met him on Friday night just to go over plans for the year and he came across very positive, had a massive structure in place, so when we get out in front in the team sessions it'll become clearer to lads who haven't had him before."

There's hope too that Kenny's Cuala connection might lead to a few more All-Ireland club winners throwing their lot in with the hurlers, including the likes of Mark Schutte.

O'Donnell also expects Conal Keaney to give it another year after making an impressive return to the inter-county stage in 2018 after a two-year absence. Whoever they have, O'Donnell insists they will be ready to go in 2019 and that includes making an assault on a Leinster title.

"We as Dublin hurlers don't come to training and say, 'God, I wish we had Mark Schutte or I wish we had these amazing footballers. You deal with the hand you are given and that's exactly what we do," the defender explains.

"We're not playing to make up the numbers. We're not playing to achieve in Leinster some day, every player is going out and putting their lives on hold, five, six, seven times a week so why would we do it if we weren't aiming to win Leinster and beyond that?"

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