Saturday 25 January 2020

Dessie: we must raise the bar

Kerry are coming with full deck warns new Dublin boss

New manager Dessie Farrell will be looking for improvements in the Dublin set-up. Photo: Sportsfile
New manager Dessie Farrell will be looking for improvements in the Dublin set-up. Photo: Sportsfile

"I think the squad does need an injection of new faces and new blood.

"To what extent - I'm not sure.

"In the initial period of time anyway, that won't be to the detriment of anyone else.

"I'm happy to carry an extended squad until we get to figure it out a little bit more.

"In the initial period for me, it's more about sitting back and observing the dynamics.

Stephen Cluxton and Diarmuid Connolly will be included in Dessie Farrell’s plans. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton and Diarmuid Connolly will be included in Dessie Farrell’s plans. Photo: Sportsfile

"I'm in the privileged position to step into the inner sanctum now, and to get under the bonnet a little bit and figure out all the moving parts to that, the dynamic at play.

"I'll be listening a lot more than talking.

"On that basis then, we can make some judgements and assessments of where we're at in terms of football or performances or even personnel down the road."


Which of the messages Dessie Farrell delivered yesterday morning at his media unveiling at AIG's offices on North Wall Quay was the most interesting depended entirely on your perspective.

But it was easy to spot the significance in the above quote.

As a player, coach and even as an administrator, Farrell has always demonstrated a penchant for making awkward, frequently unpopular, decisions to satisfy his own relentless determination to succeed.

And as he acknowledged himself publicly for the first time yesterday, this is his most arduous undertaking.

How do you improve arguably the greatest football team in history?

Where do you start?

There are two prevailing and distinct theories about the scenario Farrell now faces.

The hiding-to-nothing hypothesis states that regardless of how successful Dublin are, Farrell can only really ever do as well as the man who came before him.

Anything less than the most concentrated run of achievement in Gaelic football history and he is culpable for a drop in standards.


The other theory, the one to which Farrell himself subscribes, says that regardless of how the team has performed in the recent past, he has always had a vocation for managing Dublin and a craving for success.

And who are more likely to fulfil that aim than the most successful bunch of Dublin footballers ever?

Whatever way he chooses to begin, Farrell was adamant about one thing yesterday: an improvement is absolutely necessary now.

The diplomat in Farrell briefly revealed himself yesterday, when he cited most of the counties in Ireland as being the most clear and present threat to Dublin's continued custody of the Sam Maguire Cup.

But his belief that Kerry are "coming with a full deck, and coming in a big way", was clearly genuine.

"The big message that I wanted to convey to the lads is that we need to be on our guard," he explained. "We need to be on our toes.

"And, if there's areas for growth and improvement, we need to identify what those areas are and get on with it."

It went unsaid by Farrell yesterday but, almost inevitably, erosion will be a natural part of that process.

It will, however, be totally natural.

No player who was part of the 2019 squad will be discarded without first being granted the opportunity to prove their continued value.

And according to Farrell, nobody has an inclination to step away of their own accord.

Cluxton, Connolly and the rest of the thirty-somethings are currently on board and part of the initial stages, but the need to make ground as quickly as possible was also something Farrell acknowledged.

Logistically, he is on the back foot due to his late appointment.

Farrell revealed yesterday that he briefly examined alternative venues for training but given his limited scope, he resolved to use the facilities at Innisfails, St Clare's and the gym in Parnell Park for the coming season.

And - as manager of a team that lost a minor All-Ireland final in 2011 in his first year at that grade and an Under-21 side that were beaten by Longford in the opening round of the Leinster championship - Farrell is naturally wary of the concept of a bedding-in period.

"The lesson I take from that is failure - you can learn a lot from it, for sure.


"And one of the challenges with this group is that they've been so successful, they haven't had to endure or encounter that.

"Success," Farrell noted, "can be a lousy teacher, and there's an onus on us to be very, very vigilant around how we set ourselves up for the season ahead."

It was put to Farrell yesterday that he had denied any interest in being the Dublin senior manager when he stepped down as chief executive of the GPA in 2016.

At the time, it had the feeling of a man conscious of the resultant 'Farrell Sets Sights On Dubs Job' headlines in the following day's editions.

"I think it's timing, probably," he admitted.

"That's probably three years ago now, or whatever.

"I think you always have to be very respectful of the incumbents at the time and they don't need to have someone looking over their shoulder.

"I think that, out of respect to the group that was there and the management team, it wasn't my place to be saying that I might want to be looking at the job in the near future or something."

Details of his meeting with the Dublin squad on December 23 were limited yesterday.

But despite his insistence that standards must improve, it's safe to assume Farrell didn't evoke Brian Clough and urge the squad to throw their medals in the bin.

What style of management Farrell will bring to the job he admitted "is pretty immense," isn't immediately apparent.

Given their professional backgrounds, it was easy to picture Pat Gilroy as the CEO of the Dublin team, delegating to skilled management colleagues.

Or Jim Gavin as the military general, running the operation with army-like precision.


Farrell has always been a hands-on coach. Last year, he also worked as a performance coach with the Dublin hurlers.

The aspects of the role he relinquishes responsibility to others will only become clear when those 'others' are appointed.

"It has taken me by surprise in many ways," he admitted. "The level of work that's goes on.

"I've no doubt it's a strong dressing room. This group as well as being high functioning, they're highly evolved and I'd imagine not inclined to suffer fools gladly.

"I'm under no illusions there, but my approach is very simple in relation to that - we're all in this together.

"I've been appointed by the county board now," Farrell added. "So for better or for worse, I'm who they've got, and between us, we've got to make this work."

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