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Sunday 22 October 2017

Gilroy set for Dubs' hotseat - with a little help

Former Galway boss Cunningham may come on board as appointment looms

Former Galway hurling boss Anthony Cunningham
Former Galway hurling boss Anthony Cunningham

Dublin hope to finalise the appointment of a new senior hurling manager in the coming days, with all the smart money on former football supremo Pat Gilroy.

And, in an intriguing development, Gilroy could have former Galway hurling boss Anthony Cunningham on board in a coaching capacity.

Gilroy has impeccable management credentials, having led Dublin out of the All-Ireland SFC wilderness after a 16-year wait in 2011.

His putative involvement with the hurlers was initially viewed by some sceptics as either an invention of the media or the bookmakers or both … but it has been gaining traction steadily in recent weeks.

Now, all the informed speculation points to Gilroy taking over from Ger Cunningham with the latter's namesake - the man who led Galway to the 2012 and 2015 All-Ireland finals - providing the hurling pedigree on his management ticket.

If this does indeed come to pass, it would represent a doubly intriguing crossover between the codes. Gilroy is a former All-Ireland winning footballer (from 1995) whereas Anthony Cunningham is a former All-Ireland winning hurler (twice with Galway, in 1987 and '88) who has already made a successful leap into football management, winning county and provincial club titles with St Brigid's (Roscommon) and Garrycastle (Westmeath).

For now, the county board is steadfastly refusing to say anything about an appointment yet to be finalised. "No comment" was the straight-bat response of Dublin chairman Seán Shanley when contacted by The Herald yesterday.

However, Shanley confirmed that the search for a new manager is in the home straight and there could be news "before the end of the week."

"We have to run it by (county board) management first and then county committee. We will probably call a county committee meeting for Monday of next week," he revealed - on the proviso that they have a candidate signed off for ratification.

If, indeed, Gilroy is Dublin's choice that the involvement of someone with Cunningham's hurling pedigree makes perfect sense.

Background

Not that his background is all football: he made his senior debut with St Vincent's in hurling before football while he won Dublin U15 and U16 hurling championship medals with the club, under the guidance of the late Lar Foley.

Gilroy has already overseen one drastic upheaval of a Dublin squad - transforming the footballers' All-Ireland fortunes after some admittedly traumatic early results - but the task facing the county's next hurling boss is arguably more daunting.

Ger Cunningham introduced a raft of youngsters in his third and final season, with deflating results - relegation from the top-flight and crushing championship defeats to Galway in Leinster and Tipperary in the qualifiers.

This was perhaps no surprise given the number of high-profile players who were dropped, or else retired or defected of their own accord, during his troubled tenure.

"It was a tough year, not helped by the success of Cuala ... not having any of them for all of the league," Shanley admitted.

Cuala's All-Ireland winning manager, Mattie Kenny, has been among the touted front-runners ever since the position became vacant in July - he previously worked as a Galway selector alongside Cunningham. Former boss Anthony Daly has also featured prominently in the betting.

Looking ahead to the coming season, Shanley gave an upbeat prognosis. "I think we are in a good position now, because we are in 1B where we should be able to blend in some of the new, younger lads and hopefully get back any of the lads that are wanted," the Dublin chief said.

"We would hope to hit the ground running in Division 1B and get to the quarter-finals and see where it goes from that."

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