Monday 18 February 2019

Mac in 'coded' plea to old boss Gilroy

Key man wants Dublin footballers to stick together ... but backs Pat to revive hurlers

Dublin’s James McCarthy was yesterday confirmed as the PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Month for September. Pics: Sportsfile
Dublin’s James McCarthy was yesterday confirmed as the PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Month for September. Pics: Sportsfile

James McCarthy has many reasons to be thankful to Pat Gilroy - the manager who gave him his league and championship debuts, who had faith in his potential even during some rocky early outings.

But his gratitude won't extend to hoping Gilroy can put the very best and most gifted Dublin hurling team on the field next season - if that comes at the expense of his former charges.

McCarthy has no fear of an imminent phone call from his old boss - he's not a hurler, full stop.

But lots of his football comrades qualify as serious dual players, and Gilroy's connections with the squad have fuelled inevitable rumours about potential code-hopping in the capital, for once to the hurlers' advantage.

All of which explains McCarthy's "try and stay away!" plea as he received his PwC September Footballer of the Month award yesterday.

"We're obviously on a crest of a wave and we want to keep going the way we are," says the man who, more than anyone on the third Sunday of September, dragged Dublin past Mayo and to the gates of All-Ireland three-in-a-row heaven.

"I'd love to see the hurlers do well," he expands. But, as for losing players to them? "I hope he stays away! I don't know. Look, we'll be hoping to keep our guys together obviously.


"I'd say Pat will be looking for every guy he can. If he gets a lot of the guys that are missing - the likes of Danny Sutcliffe and these guys - I think they'll become very competitive again very soon. So I think they'll be a very hard team to beat next year. Obviously with the changes to the hurling, there's more games. That'll suit them as well."

Down to the specifics: what about all the speculation of Diarmuid Connolly crossing over to hook up with his fellow St Vincent's man?

"I certainly hope not, but you never know in life. He's obviously playing well for Vincent's (hurlers) now as well but I'd be hoping he'd definitely continue with us next year."

McCarthy hasn't seen much of Connolly the hurler - bar the website clips "like everyone else. He seems to be well able for it as well. You can imagine the jump from club hurling to county is a massive leap.

"Obviously, he had a frustrating summer with the ban. We don't want to go back on that and how could you get banned for such a long time for such a minor incident. That's what happens. Yeah, that's frustrating but he steadied the ship for us in the final and had such a big impact. He reminded everyone, in case they forgot, how good a player and how important he is for our team. We'll certainly hope he'll come back."

Even without a sudden influx of Dublin footballers, McCarthy can only see good times ahead for the hurlers.

"They seemed to be disjointed the last year or two," he says ... traits unlikely to manifest themselves now.

For all that, Gilroy's interest in the role came as a surprise.

"When I heard the rumours I wasn't actually sure if it would happen but I think he'll be a very good manager with them," he predicts.

"He'll bring a great organisation, he'll bring a bit of unity, toughness, all that. He's a great manager. Across all sports, if you're a good manager you'll do good and there's not much difference between hurling and football, they're similar sports as well."

McCarthy's own formative experiences as a Dublin senior footballer showcased Gilroy's man-management qualities.

"He was very good looking after me personally at the start - he put a lot of faith in me," the Ballymun man remembers.

"He'd delegate jobs to the coaches and stuff. He'd be a good manager like that. He gets you wanting to play for him - that's probably the best compliment (I could pay him).

"If you have a manager and you want to play for him, that's half the battle.

"He wouldn't pull you out after 20 minutes - he'd let you find your feet and let you fight your own battle, which is what you want, really."

Citing his Allianz League debut away to Kerry at the start of 2010 - Dublin's first competitive outing since the 'startled earwigs' collapse to the same opposition - McCarthy recalls "getting the run-around" from Paul Galvin in the first half.


"He didn't pull me out - he made me play the full 70 minutes where you'd nearly ask to be pulled off. But he made you stay in there and you'd learn a lot from that," he remarks.

"It's mindset, really. That was something he went after. We were coming off heavy losses and defeats in big games and he just wanted the team to be really hard to beat and a tough team to play against and a mentally strong side.

"So they are definitely areas I'd imagine he'll go after with the hurlers as well."

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