Whelan a huge loss: Luke
Carlow manager Dempsey insists Gilroy's ex-lieutenant will not be easily replaced
HAVING secured his own high profile backroom appointment for this year, Carlow manager Luke Dempsey reckons Pat Gilroy faces something of a job or work in 'filling the shoes' of his trusted lieutenant, Mickey Whelan.
Dempsey will lead his Carlow charges in a guard of honour for the All-Ireland champions in Dr Cullen Park on Sunday (2.0) and will, for the first time, walk the line alongside Kildare legend Anthony Rainbow, who agreed to form part of a new backroom team at the conclusion of 2011.
The opposing bench, however, will have a large Mickey Whelan-shaped hole and Dempsey is sure that the veteran St Vincent's trainer will be a significant loss to the Dublin armoury.
"I would think that definitely is going to be an issue," he told the Herald.
"He was an integral part of that campaign.
"Either they get him to come back -- which he says he's not -- or they get somebody else who is as efficient as Mickey was. I'm sure Pat Gilroy has the wherewithal to resolve it but Mickey will definitely be a loss."
Understandably, Dempsey is excited about Rainbow's potential to coax another level out of a Carlow side which last year recorded their first Leinster championship win in five years when defeating Louth in O'Moore Park.
"I wanted to bring in someone with fresh ideas and a fresh voice," Dempsey explained, "so I had a shortlist of players I would have worked with in the past, including Anthony.
"He will be a selector. He will take part of the training sessions which would be applicable to his brief, which would be in defensive coaching.
"And also to be a voice of great experience, commitment and dedication to the players of Carlow.
"Roll all those into one and we have a great football man.
"He has a great future ahead of him in GAA coaching and we're just thrilled to have him in Carlow."
Dempsey has been something of an evangelist in Carlow in attempting to generate a new-found interest in the county jersey amongst the area's top club players and he is happy to admit that last year's relatively progressive season has heightened the unity amongst the dressing room.
In that regard, too, he is effusive in his praise for the Dubs and their commitment to the county which finally culminated in last September's success.
"I was just thrilled," Dempsey insisted. "Knowing Pat Gilroy and Mickey Whelan and all the hard work they put in and how dedicated the players were. It was really deserving that they did win the All-Ireland.
"It was such a tough campaign. Against Kerry, they showed how good a team they were," he added.
"I was thrilled a Leinster county did it and particularly Dublin.
"The way they commit to their county ... that's what any county manager would like."
Entering his fourth term as Carlow manager this year, Dempsey is optimistic about the future of the team and can rely on 21 of last year's squad along with a handful of bright young talent and a couple of injury returnees.
And while the novelty of having the All-Ireland champions come to Carlow on the first weekend proper of the season is, according Westmeath's former All-Ireland under-21 winning manager (1999), "creating a great buzz around the place", he has set promotion from the murky depths of Division 4 of the Allianz League as their immediate barometer for improvement.
"That's where we want to do something," he added. "It's so hard to get out of it because everyone thinks they can.
"You have the likes of Waterford and Limerick in it and Fermanagh with Peter Canavan managing them. It's a really tough division to get out of."