Sunday 24 February 2019

Same principles apply as Pat builds from the back

Dublin selectors Paddy O’Donoghue, Anthony Cunningham
and manager Pat Gilroy during last Sunday’s win over Antrim. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin selectors Paddy O’Donoghue, Anthony Cunningham and manager Pat Gilroy during last Sunday’s win over Antrim. Photo: Sportsfile

A couple of times now in the still embryonic moments of his Dublin hurling reign, Pat Gilroy has faced questions about his acclimatisation to the rarefied air of inter-county hurling management.

The questions are underpinned by Gilroy's novice status in his newly-chosen sport.

And the undertones suggest that firstly, hurling at this exalted level is a niche art form, impenetrable to all but those who have played and appreciated it for the majority of their lives.

And secondly, that Gilroy hadn't so much as taken in a match prior to accepting the job of managing his county.

Thus, he has only just begun the baffling process of decoding the beautiful madness of it all.

Like an alien handed a jigsaw of a Picasso.

After they played Meath on Wednesday in his first competitive game, Gilroy was asked what he had found to be the primary difference between the sports.

As though he had just commenced collecting evidence.Visibly bemused, Gilroy shrugged: "You're using a stick?!"

Similarly on Sunday, after his weary troops had dispatched with Antrim in Parnell Park, Gilroy received an enquiry as to the division of labour in his backroom team.

Contained within the query was a suggestion that perhaps Anthony Cunningham, as the only confirmed 'hurling man' in his sideline cohort, was making the decisions with regard to substitutions.

"You're listening to your selectors but that's our job as a management team," Gilroy responded.

"We discuss things and I'll make a call and Paddy (O'Donoghue) organises it with the linesman and that's it."

Then, he was asked whether he found he game as easy to read as football.

"Yes. It's 15 against 15, it's very, very similar," was Gilroy's straight forward response.


And what is evident from these very early passages of his reign is that Gilroy has gone about building a team in much the same way as he constructed a football side in 2010.

That the most basic indicators of progress are equally applicable to either code.Hard work. Attitude. Physicality. Defence.

"We're setting out to do certain things and we're focusing on that a lot," he explained.

"We're not paying too much attention to the opposition at the minute, we want to do things ourselves so if we're not seeing it happen, we make the change."

While at pains to point out how early everyone was in the overall process of constructing a team and acquiring a style, Gilroy was nonetheless pleased that they had at least started well in one of his rudimentary aims.

"We didn't concede a goal in the two competitive games and we only conceded one on Saturday (in their challenge match loss to Tipperary)," he pointed out.

"So in terms of stopping goals, that has been very good. It's a game where goals can be crucial. But our concession of frees in scoreable areas has been too much. So it's something we have to work on.

"But certainly, we're putting our bodies on the line to make sure we don't concede goals, which is progression."

Paddy Smyth, Bill O'Carroll and Cian Hendricken formed the starting full-back line in all three matches Dublin played last week.

Smyth and Hendricken are also eligible for this year's under-21 team but already, have the look of League starters about them.

"I think our full-back line was immense," Gilroy agreed.

"They were winning the ball the whole time and they put their bodies on the line a few times in the first half to make sure we didn't concede a goal. So I couldn't fault them. There's lots of lads who are doing great and it's positive for us.

"Look, we'll just look forward to another game before the league starts."

Dublin face Wexford in their Walsh Cup semi-final this Sunday in Parnell Park (2.0).

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