Dublin defender Eoghan O’Donnell was part of a three-man players group that met new manager Mattie Kenny last Friday night to kick-start preparations for 2019.
But the 23-year-old admitted he’s still coming to terms with September’s surprise departure of Pat Gilroy which he described as ‘like a death in the family’.
Dublin may have won just three games throughout this year’s National League and Championship — against Antrim, Laois and Offaly — yet O’Donnell felt they made serious strides and was shell-shocked by Gilroy’s news.
“When Pat left it was like a death in the family almost, it was a shock to everyone,” said O’Donnell at the AIG Skills Challenge involving Dublin GAA and All Blacks players which took place in Castleknock Golf Club.
“We had such a good year and it came out of the blue completely. I was in Croatia on holidays and he phoned me and I was thinking this is him calling me about physio or something like that, so it was like a bomb dropped.
“It was very disappointing and things took a while to settle down.”
O’Donnell clearly took Gilroy’s departure hard and admitted it was a while before he got his head around it.
“I thought it was one of the lads taking the piss out of me, I couldn’t believe it at all, it was a shock but when it came across Pat’s desk that he was to be working in Kenya or somewhere like that he couldn’t turn down the opportunity which is fair enough,” he said.
“But it doesn’t make it any easier for us because we really did get on well with him. The results maybe didn’t reflect that but the whole hurling population knows that last year was a significant improvement for us.”
O’Donnell claimed that Dublin’s poor results under Gilroy masked the serious improvements that were made.
“Someone told me a stat that we were leading in the 70th minute of every Championship game this year, if you’d offered us that at the start of the year, results aside, we’d have bitten your hand off for it and used it as progression for the next year,” he said.
Back-to-back All-Ireland-winning Cuala manager Kenny met the three Dublin players at the Clayton Hotel in Liffey Valley last week and informed them he doesn’t plan to rip up Gilroy’s script.
“He was talking very much about building on from where we were this year,” said O’Donnell. “I think Cuala’s style and our style this year are similar.”
Kenny’s close affinity to the Cuala players means he may be able to lure Mark Schutte back into the fold after quitting the panel to spend the last two seasons with the Dublin footballers.
Convincing Con O’Callaghan, a two-time All-Ireland club winner, to quit the Dublin footballers is simply not going to happen though.
“A pipe-dream I would say is the word for it,” smiled O’Donnell.
Dublin are due to return to duty in the Walsh Cup on December 9 when they play Carlow, an early start to 2019 that O’Donnell can’t fathom.
“That’s one that doesn’t make sense to me, they shortened the year come summertime and just added it on at the end of the winter,” he said.
“It’s a bizarre one for me, I don’t understand it.”