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Saturday 18 November 2017

'I won't mess with the Dub footballers'

Gilroy won't look to pluck Gavin's panel in pursuit of top-four goal

New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy at Croke Park yesterday to launch the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival, also supported by Aer Lingus
New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy at Croke Park yesterday to launch the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival, also supported by Aer Lingus

Pat Gilroy had plenty to say on his first media engagement as Dublin hurling manager, but perhaps the most newsworthy was his position on dual players.

There's a slew of talented hurlers who just so happen to be members of Jim Gavin's all-conquering football squad.

And Gilroy, as a former Dublin football boss, knows some of them very, very well. Two plus two equals five footballers suddenly declaring for the hurlers?

Not so, the new boss insisted in Croke Park yesterday.

Asked about his potential interest in these "brilliant hurlers", he replied: "They are, they are. Well, they were ... I mean, if you watch the club championship and you see guys like that playing, they're struggling playing hurling. Like, they don't stand out necessarily.

"I have a very good relationship with Jim Gavin, I have a very good relationship with football," he expanded. "I don't intend to mess up football by doing something like trying to negotiate guys into doing something that maybe they don't even want to do.

"I see it that we have two Dublin teams, one plays hurling, one plays football; the relationship should be a good relationship.

Open Discussion

"I think Cork manage to do that quite well, there's a lot of open discussion between managers - so I won't be going talking to anyone behind Jim's back or anything like that."

For the record, the current Dublin footballers who have hurled at underage level for the county include Diarmuid Connolly, Jonny Cooper, Con O'Callaghan, Ciarán Kilkenny, Cormac Costello, Eric Lowndes and Conor McHugh while recent recruit Mark Schutte has already excelled in the senior grade.

On the possibility of any switching codes, Gilroy surmised: "There might be guys at the end of his (Gavin's) panel that he's looking to move on and they might be interested in wanting to play hurling.

"But I only want guys who really want to play hurling ... I'm open to a dual guy if some fella can miraculously do it when you produce the fixtures but I just want people who really, really want to play for Dublin hurling. And they can come from anywhere, as far as I'm concerned."

Next question: what about those many 'former' Dublin hurlers who, for one reason or other, departed the fold during Ger Cunningham's troubled tenure?

"For me, it's very simple," the new manager replied. "If a guy is playing for his club and he's playing well, it's a blank sheet of paper for me.

"I don't know the history. I don't know why (they weren't involved). I was away for three years, I don't know why fellas are not playing.

"I'm sure there are different reasons but if they're playing well enough and they're interested in playing for Dublin ... for me, I'm lucky, I have a blank sheet of paper and the history for me doesn't matter."

So there you have it: if Danny Sutcliffe or Paul Schutte or Colm Cronin (to name three) are hurling up a storm at club level and want to resume their inter-county careers, Pat is interested.

Gilroy was speaking just six days after his intriguing appointment was officially confirmed. Ergo, it's early days and even though former Galway manager Anthony Cunningham has been touted for a coaching role in his set-up, he was giving no names away just yet.

But he was "very close" to naming his management team.

"I have to meet a couple of people to finalise things. I'm going to present a plan to the county board by the weekend," he explained. "It's been very quick to try and get everything into place, but I think I'm there. As long as they're happy then."

Gilroy's touchline debut will be in faraway Boston ... he was in Croker yesterday for the launch of the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic on November 19, when Dublin will tackle All-Ireland champions Galway and Tipperary face off against Clare in a 'Super 11s' format, the winners advancing to the final.

But there's lots to be finalised in the meantime - including any plans he might have for a hurling training facility, such as the St Clare's base developed for the footballers on his watch.

"We have some suggestions that we're going to present to the county board at the weekend, because I think it is important to have a consistent base," the St Vincent's man reasoned.

"You might even want to have two that you can work off, for certain times of the year. It's not good for a team to keep moving around ... the logistics of it, or even just the camaraderie of it are difficult."

On the possibility of organising divisional trial games (as he did with the footballers) he gave a similar reply: "I'm going to present a plan to the county board about the next three months. They've asked me not to discuss that until I discuss it with them."

Goal

Appointed on a three-year term, Gilroy has a short-term goal for 2018 but added with a smile that he was "not particularly" inclined to share it just yet.

He was more forthcoming on his longer-term objectives: he wants Dublin to become a top-four contender.

"I have a simple plan when I'm doing something like this," he outlined.

"If you can get each year your best performance being your last ... if that means you get knocked out or if that means you're winning, then you're happy.

"If you get the best out of them that's all you can ask for," added Gilroy.

"I think if Dublin were getting the best out of themselves in the last performance of the year, then we'd be in semi-finals and finals more regularly than we have been.

"That's my simple philosophy on it. If you look at it, you'd say we should be in a top-four on a more consistent basis. We've flitted in and out.

"Dublin has done well because we don't have the tradition; 1938 is a long time ago. The progress has been steady. It'll always have these little bumps ... I think people who are playing hurling in Dublin are a resilient bunch. They will get back up again."

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