Saturday 7 December 2019

Kenny's eye for detail

Dubs' boss keen to sort relevant from rubbish

DRIVEN: Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny knows what to prioritise. Pic: Sportsfile
DRIVEN: Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny knows what to prioritise. Pic: Sportsfile

WHEN Mattie Kenny addressed Cuala's players for the first in the club's bar in early 2014, the squad immediately noticed something about their new manager.

He was holding a laptop.

It was merely a practical implement to aid Kenny in outlining his vision for a club that had grazed on the lower slops of Dublin hurling in their most recent seasons.

But still, it was unusual enough for the players to take heed.

"He has a nice balance of a good understanding of sports science and a good respect for it and all that goes with it," says former Dublin ladies' football goalkeeper Cliodhna O'Connor, currently part of Kenny's athletic conditioning team with Dublin.

"But he has an ability to cut through the bullshit, or the potential, bullshit and decide what's actually important here."

Anthony Daly told a story in his autobiography 'Dalo' that he repeated earlier this week in podcast form.

It goes back to 2011 and the Dublin hurlers League final victory over Kilkenny.

Big day. Big pressure.

Instinctively, Daly explained in his tome, he felt it was his duty as manager to ease the tension.

Helpfully in this regard, he has a flair for improvisation and equally handily, Daly had props: swimming goggles and a pair of blue shorts.

As the team prepared for their warm-up in the Croke Park dressing-rooms, Daly suited up.

"In I wailed with the goggles and the swimming hat and the look of someone who had just walked out of a lunatic asylum," he wrote.

"Once I knew the players realised it was actually me and not some poor fella who had escaped from an institution, I summoned the best Limerick accent I could manage.

'Whaare's the poooool?' Iz dare no pool here at all?'

"Then I turned on my heels, walked straight back out the door and put back on my tracksuit."

Whether it had the desired effect or not, Dublin won easily that day in what was perhaps their most complete performance of Daly's colourful six years in charge.

It's unlikely to be cited in any management theses, but the point is, for all the advancements in the science of team preparation, management in itself isn't an exact science.


And just as Kenny has been willing to engage with anything and anyone, just so long as it helps the team he manages move in the right direction, so too has he the ability to discern what's important.

"With all these big resources that you have around inter-county teams, you could be inundated with sports science information, testing information, GPS numbers, all sorts of analysis and games analysis, performance analysis," O'Connor explains.

"You can get bogged down and spend 20 hours going through that information.

"But I think one of Mattie's best assets is he's able to go through that and decide what to prioritise."

"What do we really need to know? And are we focusing on numbers and stuff that's of no relevance or is it really inefficient to be worried about that, when we really need to be able to hit the ball over the bar."

There is nothing to replace old-fashioned dedication, however, and Kenny has never been one to cut corners.

Prior to one of Cuala's Leinster SHC games, he sought footage of their next opponents from Nemeton, the Waterford-based production company who put together TG4's live GAA coverage.

The problem was that couriered post would arrive on the Monday of the week of Cuala's game, whereas Kenny wanted the opposition analysed and a presentation for players on Sunday so that team could then focus on their own preparations.

So on Friday evening, he left his home near Loughrea, drove to Waterford and collected the DVD.

From there, he set off for Dublin, delivered the tape to Seaghan Kearney - then Cuala's video analyst - and headed back to Galway.

By Sunday, the players were digesting clips of their opposition.

"Like any manager, he's demanding of the players and of the backroom team, which he should be and needs to be," says O'Connor.

"That attention to detail is probably what is most impressive."

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