Monday 18 February 2019

Gilroy's defence focus as Walsh Cup trials begin

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Pat Gilroy. Photo: Sportsfile

As January hurling story-lines go, Dublin should be one of the more interesting.

For most, these winter competitions amount to nothing greater than glorified training sessions.

For Dublin's new manager, they'll serve nicely as trials.

It's fair to say that for once, Dublin commanded the attention of the hurling establishment back in October when they appointed Pat Gilroy as their new manager.

We'll learn a bit about what to expect from the earliest passages of his tenure tonight when Dublin take on Meath in their first Walsh Cup match at 8pm at the GAA's Centre of Excellence in Abbotstown.

But similar to his demolition and reconstruction of the Dublin footballers post 2009, Gilroy's immediate focus is likely to be on the less artistic aspects of the game.

"If you look at any game, and hurling is no different, if a guy is on the ball for a minute in the whole game, it's a lot," he said in Boston in his first official capacity as Dublin hurling manager back in November.

"It's the other 69 minutes - what's he doing for that?


"People who are going to do that work, when they're not on the ball. That's really important to us.

"That's a crucial part of the game."

More recently, asked about Gilroy's code-crossing credentials, Anthony Cunningham stated: "Quite a lot of it now overlaps and there are basic fundamentals.

"Like, you need to be prepared to work if you lose a ball and how you set up defensively in general."

Given the team conceded 2-28 and 6-26 in their two Championship defeats last year, such an early preoccupation to defence shouldn't be a surprise.

To that end, Gilroy's currently bloated squad has been through a rigorous Christmas of rustic training.

Partly, it would seem that the new manager is hell bent on having his team fitter than anyone else for the beginning of the League but mostly, Gilroy is still in the process of determining which players possess the necessary character and devotion to be part of his 2018 squad.

He appears unconcerned about the reasons any player wasn't part of Ger Cunningham's squad in the last two years.

And so almost every one who either opted out or was dropped has been offered the chance to be part of Gilroy's.

It helps too that barring injury, he will have all players - bar those from Cuala - available, given the absence of college teams from this year's competition.

Making a good early impression should top their New Year's resolutions.

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