Dublin forwards coach Jason Sherlock insists that the majority of the All-Ireland champions’ backroom team are volunteers and that much of the county’s success has nothing to do with “resources”.
An intriguing photograph of Dublin’s extended management team taken after their All-Ireland final replay win over Mayo highlighted a 23-strong group that made back to back titles possible.
Boss Jim Gavin headed the backroom team though the picture also included medical, nutrition, media, statistical, video, and various coaching experts.
The actual size of the group could be closer to the high 20s as Bryan Cullen, Dublin GAA’s high-performance manager, and other medical staff weren’t in the picture.
The image brought inevitable claims that the cash-rich county have an unfair advantage over their rivals in terms of preparations.
But Sherlock insists the group is simply a collection of like-minded volunteers who want to offer their expertise.
“In relation to that picture, I think Jim’s father was in it and maybe two or three members of the county board but anyone that was in it are volunteers as far as I know, excluding Bryan Cullen,” said Sherlock. “I don’t know how many volunteers are with other counties.
“All I know is I was asked by Jim to see if I could assist and I’m happy to do it. I don’t know what’s going on elsewhere. I understand there is always going to be that debate about Dublin and all that but as far as I’m concerned, it was the same situation when I played.
“We had the biggest population then too, the biggest resources but we didn’t have success.”
Asked if Dublin are simply more organised these days, Sherlock nodded: “You’d have to look at that as a contributory factor,” said the 1995 All-Ireland medal winner. “From my point of view, I was asked to get involved in the Dublin development squads three years ago and it was a privilege to be asked and something I was delighted to do.
“We’re in grounds at the weekends with U14s and U15s, as volunteers. We have Davy Henry, Paul Griffin, Paul Casey, Declan Lally, Brendan O’Brien and then we’ve a few other guys as well.”
Dublin’s sponsorship deal with insurance multinational AIG is worth a reported €800,000 per annum while their list of ‘official partners’ runs into double figures.
But Sherlock insisted all of those ex-players are simply in it to give something back to the county. “When I picked up the phone, they were all happy to play their part,” he said. “That’s got nothing to do with resources, they are people who are proud to have played with Dublin and want to give something back.”
Sherlock was recognised as one of the most creative and exciting forwards of his generation and is responsible for mentoring the current Dublin forwards.
Their task has been more difficult as opponents pack their defences against the champions. Former Dublin defender Ger Brennan claimed after the drawn All-Ireland final with Mayo that Dublin’s attacking edge has been blunted by being forced to recycle and retain possession more.
“We can’t control how a team sets up against us,” responded Sherlock. “There’s a big emphasis on the defensive side of the game at the moment and that’s a challenge Dublin have had over the last number of years, so there’s no point in doing something a certain way if you don’t think it’s going to have benefits.
“The players have to decide themselves what is the best way of reacting to something. As a coach, that’s all you can do, empower your players to deal with situations.”
Sherlock was speaking at the launch of a Leinster Council/GPA coaching programme for former county players. He was joined at the launch by ex-Meath star Trevor Giles who was involved when the Royals beat Dublin, then All-Ireland holders, in the 1996 Championship.
“We beat a team by 10 points and the following year they beat us and won the All-Ireland,” said Sherlock. “It took us seven years to beat them then. That’s how fickle sport can be.”
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