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Sunday 19 January 2020

Carr: Back room team is crucial

Deciding which roles to delegate will be every bit as important as which people to appoint for Farrell

Dublin manager Tommy Carr salutes the Dublin supporters after the 2001 All-Ireland Football Championship quarter-final against Kerry in Thurles. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Tommy Carr salutes the Dublin supporters after the 2001 All-Ireland Football Championship quarter-final against Kerry in Thurles. Pic: Sportsfile
Dessie Farrell faces his first game in charge of Dublin against Longford on Saturday. Photo: Sportsfile

Given a choice, you'd venture that Dessie Farrell could do without Saturday's O'Byrne Cup semi-final.

On Friday morning in AIG's offices on North Wall Quay, we'll get the first public comment from Farrell as Dublin manager but as yet, three days shy of his first match as Dublin manager, no backroom team has been announced.

The reasons for this seem obvious enough.

Pat Gilroy was appointed Dublin manager on October 11th, 2008.

Jim Gavin was announced as his replacement on October 1st, 2012.

Farrell's candidacy was confirmed on December 12th of last year, just shortly after he was informed himself by the sub-committee with responsibility for the appointment that he would be the new Dublin manager.

The vacancy hadn't existed until 15 days beforehand.

At that stage, Farrell had agreed to be Na Fianna's senior football manager and the Dublin hurlers' performance coach for 2020.

He is, then, currently booking the acts for what one of his other predecessors famously called 'the biggest gig in town' with two months less notice than any of those who came before him.

Crucial

So what now are Farrell's priorities?

Which are his most urgent appointments?

What elements of the structure are load-bearing and required to be immediately erected?

Who is the person you ring first when you become Dublin senior football manager?

"One of the best things a new manager can do is sit down with the outgoing one," notes Tom Carr, who managed Dublin between between 1997 and 2001, during which time he made Farrell his captain.

"Often, that doesn't happen because the outgoing manager is pissed off because it hasn't ended well.

"That obviously won't be the case with Dessie and Jim.

"And I think Dessie and Jim would be good enough to sit down and have a cup of coffee and chat about what works and what doesn't."

"And," Carr goes on, "I think one of the crucial things for Dessie is (to have) a conversation with Stephen Cluxton.

"I wouldn't always be in favour of going and talking to one player - but he is a very influential player.

"And I do think Stephen will stay on, because Stephen will get on well with Dessie."

Indeed, they played together in 2001, when Carr was Dublin manager, Farrell his captain and Cluxton, an unknown 19-year-old goalkeeping prospect.

"Dessie was a good captain for Stephen Cluxton," Carr recalls. "Now it's a case of Stephen being a good captain for Dessie."

Assembling a backroom team is a critical priority.

Continue

It is likely that Shane O'Hanlon, a selector for seven years under Gavin, will continue to perform his logistics role.

The other man tipped for a position is Mick Galvin, Farrell's former team-mate with Na Fianna and Dublin and a close friend.

Selectors come and go, however, as they habitually did under both Gilroy and Gavin.

But, as Carr explains: "Your coach or coaches are the most important element of the set-up."

Gavin used a variety of people in myriad coaching roles through his tenure.

Martin Kennedy had worked with the Dublin hurlers for two seasons before he was employed to oversee the football squad's athletic development, a role Bryan Cullen assumed after his appointment as high performance manager for Dublin GAA in 2016.

Mick Bohan, now manager of the Dublin ladies footballers, was a specialised skills coach until 2014.

Performance expert Fergus Connolly was there until mid-2014, when he was lost to the San Francisco 49ers and eventually, replaced indirectly by Gary Keegan.

Former WBA super bantamweight champion, Bernard Dunne was listed as 'Sports Performance and Lifestyle coach,' although his involvement was less frequent after he took over as High-Performance Director with the IABA in April 2017.

There were others. Josh Moran succeeded Davy Byrne as Dublin's goalkeeping coach, presumably not a role for the faint-hearted.

Seamus McCormack, a former press officer with the Air Corps, served as Gavin's media manager.

Yet the two most influential people other than Gavin in the setup were attacking co-ordinator Jason Sherlock and Declan Darcy, who performed the same function with regard to Dublin's defence.

As yet, other than contrasting rumour, there is no solid indication as to who or how these crucial roles will be occupied.

"Managers do much more managing now than coaching," Carr maintains.

"The guy who is really working with the players is the most important one."

Whatever the challenges of recruitment, Farrell must first decide which of these responsibilities to delegate.

Last year, he worked in a loosely similar capacity to Dunne's with the Dublin hurlers.

With the Dublin Under 21 footballers, he was very much a hands-on manager/coach.

Shane Clayton, who played for Farrell at that age grade for three years, recalled him "literally doing line-outs, kick-outs, throw-ups - every little part of the game that might pop up, we looked at everything.

"What to do if you're down by a goal in the last ten minutes.

"What to do if you have a man black-carded or sent off in the first five minutes - everything was looked at in detail."

Says Carr: "As long as he realises he's not the all-singing, all-dancing manager, that you have to let go of some of the responsibilities to others.

"Jim would have been smart enough to realise 'I need A, B, C and D because I can't do it.' And Pat would have been a big delegator."

There are also decisions to be made over infrastructure and facilities.

In the past, there has been a shared agreement with DCU over 'the bunker' in St Clare's, whereby the college's Sigerson team use it during the pre-summer months before the arrival of Dublin for their championship training.

Before that, Gavin used Innisfails' pitch on Carr's Lane directly across from Balgriffin cemetery for winter/spring slog.

It couldn't accurately be described as either plush or high-tech.

But it served a purpose and the absence of bells or whistles there is what attracted Gavin to the facility.

"They're the things you can change," Carr reckons.

"In terms of changing what has worked for Dublin, why would you change the method of play? Why would you change the players?

"But he could freshen it up. Walking into a different place on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Or using a different gym.

"They're functional. They can work as change of scenery without losing anything important.

"But," Carr adds, "he's not going to change the ethos or the culture of the group."

"They're the things he will want to keep very much intact."

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