It's not what’s in the chalice that worries Dessie Farrell; it’s the size of it.
Not since Mickey Ned O’Sullivan took over the Kerry reins from Mick O’Dwyer 31 years ago has a GAA manager inherited such a glittering vessel. But oh so weighty too.
Shouldering it was something Farrell needed to give careful consideration. He made calls for counsel and conversed with family.
There was no question it was a position he coveted and, as he notes himself, would be considered “natural evolution” after his successful minor and U21 stints. When he claimed he didn’t want it a few years back, it was merely out of respect for Jim Gavin.
But now? Now is as good a time as any even if there will be no honeymoon period for him. Grace will be offered sparingly but he knows that. “We’ve been spoilt in Dublin as supporters and I’ve been a supporter myself the last number of years. It has been unprecedented. It definitely was something to consider.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I’ve always taken the approach that, there’s two ways to live your life maybe. One, as a timid soul, sort of year by year, month by month, week by week, possibly even hour by hour, as a timid soul. Or the other is to perhaps do the things that frighten you at times.
“This thing stimulates me, it challenged me. I love football, working with footballers. Ultimately, now is the time that if I didn’t do it now it would probably never come around again.”
Words Éamonn Fitzmaurice used when taking over from Jack O’Connor in late 2012 and Kerry are much to the forefront of Farrell’s mind as he assesses the lie of the land going into this season.
It helps that under the watch of the Na Fianna man many of Dublin’s prized panel of players flourished at under-age. Jonny Cooper, EoinMurchan and Conor McHugh are also club-mates but then several of the group tasted their first All-Ireland success with Farrell leading them.
“Some of them I would have been a little bit closer to than others. You’d meet them out and about at events or games and different things. Then some others you’d deliberately go out of your way to meet or they would so there has been strong contact.
“In those intervening years you’re always there more as a resource to them, not to pry or step beyond a certain boundary in relation to those types of conversations or discussions. There would have been a lot of contact with many of the players.”
As much as Farrell told the players in their first meeting last month that there would have to be improvement, he is cognisant about the dressing room he is about to takecommand of. Like Stephen Cluxton, he doesn’t forget the fallow years but appreciates he will be working with high achievers. “This group, as well as being high functioning, are highly evolved, I’d imagine not inclined to suffer fools gladly. So I’m under noillusions there.
“We’ve been very fortunate in Dublin because I vividly remember the barren years and there was many, many of those. That shouldn’t be lost on supporters. I’ll be reminding players of that from time to time. That thing is precious. It can move away from you very, very quickly. And once it’s gone it maybe very hard to get back so there is an onus on us all now at this stage to be acutely aware of that.”
Farrell’s pedigree as an inter-county manager is punctuated by three All-Ireland titles at under-age but his first season in charge at both minor and U21 level ended in defeats. They providededucation, which he hopes will serve him well in another debut year for him as manager.
“Well look, that’s the nature of sport. There’s always going to be challenging times. I think in my first year asDublin minor manager, we got to an All-Ireland final, got beaten in that (by Tipperary), won it the second year. So the lesson I take from that is failure, you can learn a lot from it, for sure.
“And one of the challenges with this group is that they’ve been so successful, they haven’t had to endure orencounter that. Success can be a lousy teacher, and there’s an onus on us to be very, very vigilant around how we set ourselves up for the season ahead.”
Farrell had a sit-down chat with Gavin and complimented his former team-mate for being “very open, veryhelpful”.
A large part of Gavin’s success was down to his ability to delegate and Farrell agrees it will have to be a collaborative effort off the field in his tenure as much as on it.
"The scale of the job is pretty immense. Just the scope and the breadth of it, there’s an awful lot going on. It’s very, very busy.
Even while you might think you know it from the outside looking in, because you’ve been involved or operating as a coach within that county, it has taken me by surprise in many ways, the level of work that’s gone on across various different elements of the squad and the group.
"So it is significant, for sure.”
At least Cluxton has confirmed he wishes to stay on for another season although Farrell has yet to decide if he will remain as captain — the new manager expects the goalkeeper to be out until late March as he recovers from surgery to his right shoulder.
Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara stepped aside before Christmas but Farrell has been given no indication from any others that their time is up.
“No, they’re all involved, absolutely. At the end of any season or the beginning of a new season, for senior players it’s always a concern at the best of times as to what role you’re going to have going forward and particularly when there’s a new management team in place.
“I know what that feels like, I came through seven different managers, so I can understand how some of those more senior players might feel about it, and maybe that sense of uncertainty.
"But I think, in my view anyway, they’ve all been fantastic servants of Dublin football and under our watch they’re definitely going to get a chance to stake a claim.”