Sunday 20 January 2019

Roche: In name of God - don't go Pat!

AS we write, Pat Gilroy is reflecting on a job quite brilliantly done while mulling over the inevitable question, "How do I top that? Or do I even try?" We can already hear the audible gasps of Mister Diehard Dub, coupled with the plaintive cry: "In the name of Heffo, don't go!"

Forgive us for paraphrasing some of our fundamentalist friends from Wapping; we refer to the merciless headline writers who routinely stuck the boot into Bobby Robson during his oft-troubled tenure in the England football hotseat.

"In the name of God, go!" they demanded after England lost all three matches (including a timeless classic against the Boyez in Green) at Euro '88. "In the name of Allah, go!" they subsequently implored after England could only draw with Saudi Arabia.

But Robson refused to be driven out by the red-tops and eventually had the last laugh -- of sorts -- by leading England to within a penalty shootout of reaching the 1990 World Cup final.

He bowed out with his head held high, and long before his death he was revered as 'Sir Bobby', a universally loved legend as opposed to a caricature subjected to serial lampooning.

Still, it could have been worse: he could have been Graham 'Turnip Head' Taylor, who didn't even have the chance to bow out on a relative high or with his reputation still intact.

Pat Gilroy is certainly no failed England manager but, over the past three years, he has occupied the GAA managerial equivalent in terms of high profile and constant pressure. All the while, he has doubled up as the head man of a successful business.



Juggling

That can't have been easy but, while juggling these various balls, he has pulled off the singularly difficult task of transforming a Dublin team from perennial August failures into the high kings of September.

Now the fear among Dublin GAA supporters is that Gilroy could do a 'Sir Bobby' on it, bowing out with his head high, having achieved his mission statement of late 2008 -- to bring Sam back to the capital.

Or, to put a more homegrown spin on it, he could follow the path of Dr Pat O'Neill (for Dublin in '95) or Donal O'Grady (for the Cork hurlers in '04) or Jack O'Connor (for Kerry in '06) or Liam Sheedy (for the Tipperary hurlers last year) by quitting at the pinnacle.

We can't surmise why exactly all these men departed without seeking to defend their crown.

There are clear parallels, though, with Sheedy, a busy working man with a young family who managed Tipp for three years, building incrementally towards that long-awaited All-Ireland breakthrough.

Gilroy was non-committal on his future, speaking to the Herald at last night's charity match in Parnell Park. If he does opt out, he will leave with heartfelt gratitude and good wishes from all Sky Blue devotees.

But they will all hope he hangs around, not because there is any guarantee of defending Sam (the odds are stacked against it) but because any change now could affect the squad's momentum.

In football, only Kerry have retained the All-Ireland in the past 20 years. True, that was achieved by a new manager (Pat O'Shea) in '07; but multi-talented Kerry is not your typical example.

Dublin need Gilroy to build on last Sunday.

For the team's sake, hopefully Gilroy needs Dublin too.

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