Speculation about the possibility of the St Vincent’s man stepping down intensified last week after coach Mickey Whelan quit his role.
Fennell, who joined Gilroy’s club from O’Toole’s earlier this year after protracted wrangling, concedes there is genuine concern among the players Gilroy will be the next to go.
“The first thing for us now is trying to convince Pat to stay on,” insisted the midfielder. “It is a big fear, that he’ll go. Genuinely. But I’d love for him to stay on. I have so much respect for him. He’s been successful in every part of his life. I’ve learnt so much from him, and want to continue to learn from him.
“We’ve lost Mickey (Whelan) already, and we don’t want anyone else to go. We’re after getting so far with this, we’d like to keep it together, and see what else we can do. Definitely there’s more in us. So many lads that didn’t get a run the last day. Or lads who had injuries that only flourished towards the end.
“Their chance will come now in the winter, and after seeing what the lads did will want a piece of that.”
From a personal point of view, Fennell is indebted to Gilroy for standing behind him during his transfer saga as well as having a hand in improving him as a footballer. Last night, he lined out for St Vincents against Trinity Gaels in what was his first championship game in three years.
“Going into this season I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be allowed to play for Dublin.
“If I was being totally honest I always tried to put that stuff to the back of my head and only control what I could control, which was my own training. I definitely had one or two nights thinking ‘what’s going to happen...’, but Pat was always very reassuring that it would happen.
“I knew that with Andy Kettle as chairman that he’d give me a helping hand where needs be.”
Fennell also took a lot from what Gilroy wanted him to be as a player.
“Under Paul Caffrey my game was to win high ball. That was number one, and the rest would follow. But Pat has really expressed what he wants me to do as a midfielder. To get my tackle count up, up and down the pitch a bit more.
“Pat has really pointed me in the right direction, to become an all-round footballer, and the great thing about the Dublin team at the moment is that there are people there to help you all the time, on the pitch and off the pitch. Some of us need that help at times.”
In his final cameo, Fennell did what some regard as the impossible and beat Kieran Donaghy for a hop ball, which paved the way for Stephen Cluxton’s winning free.
“Diarmuid Connolly was roaring in my face before, saying ‘if you don’t win this I’m going to kill you…’ So he put the fear in me. Whoever really wanted that ball more was going to get it, and I had too many people in my face around me. The fear was in me to win it. He’s a good bit taller than me, but it was just going to be a matter of who was going to out-muscle who.
“He got in front of me, and I probably went into his back a tiny bit, but those are the breaks you need.”
Meanwhile Dublin will be without defender Paul Conlon next year after the St Vincent’s man emigrated to Australia yesterday.
Conlon, who started for Dublin in their Leinster semi-final and final, has decided to move Down Under.
“I’m 28 now so time is running out for me in terms of seeing the world,” he explained.
“I’ve given four years to Dublin and I have loved every minute of it and this year just crowned it off.
“They are a brilliant bunch of lads to have played with and deserve everything they have achieved.”
* Brian Dooher is expected to join Mickey Harte’s Tyrone management team after announcing his retirement from playing