WHEN Pat Gilroy was announced as the new Dublin football manager, most commentators were taken by surprise.
They were expecting a big name like Brian Mullins, Joe Kernan or Jack O’Connor to get the job.
Then when the rookie Gilroy was named as the manager, they began to speculate why he was appointed. It was even claimed that the legendary Kevin Heffernan had a role to play in the appointment. I thought this was very interesting. There is no bigger name in Dublin GAA circles than the bould Heffo.
Heffo gave absolutely fantastic service to his club, St Vincents, and to Dublin. Only two years ago, he trained an U16 Vincent’s hurling team to the county championship title. What’s more, he, and the late Dublin legend Micky Holden, offered to manage the Dublin senior hurlers at that time. The offer was refused. Can you imagine that? The dream management team for the Dublin hurlers was not taken on board — why? I don’t know, but money had nothing to do with it.
Around the exact same time that Heffo was available to manage the emerging Dublin hurlers, we were organising the first GAA club forum.
e of guest speakers. The clubs requested Heffo, Liam Griffin and Ger Loughnane as speakers. When I asked Heffo to oblige, he did so and travelled all the way to Killarney to give a top performance.
When I asked him about expenses he replied “go away out of that,
Kelly boy, don’t insult me”.
Yes, it was a very wise move on the part of the Dublin County Board to involve Kevin Heffernan and Dr Pat O’Neill, Manager of the last Dublin team to win an All-Ireland in 1995, in the quest for a new manager. O’Neill’s interest in Dublin GAA is also totally genuine and of course, he was a star half-back in that famous team of the 70’s.
So, when a committee comprising O’Neill and Heffo recommends the appointment of somebody to the high-pressured job of Dublin senior football manager, they aren’t doing so lightly. Gilroy, may have been a surprise appointment but so too were many of the players that Heffo selected for the Dublin team over the years. Unknowns became All-Ireland winners and All Stars in a short time.
I don’t know much about Gilroy, but from what I have read and heard about him, he has the intelligence and the qualities ideally suited for this most high profile job — that is if the Dublin players are good enough! They need to find one or two quality forwards to really threaten the Kerrys and Tyrones of this world. And they also need to learn to divorce themselves from the inevitable hype in the capital when the boys in blue begin their championship campaign each summer. Gilroy gave fantastic commitment to his club, St Vincent’s. All during his playing days they were in the doldrums, only coming good last year, as he was very much in the twilight of his career. He deserved a county, Leinster and All-Ireland Club medal more than most.
Will the Dubs reach the pinnacle of All-Ireland glory in the next few years? I, for one, would love to see it happen. Gilroy has sensibly brought that other legend, Mickey Whelan, into his team as coach. Whelan is probably the most qualified and certainly one of the best coaches in the game. He deserves success too, especially as he was treated so disgracefully when he managed Dublin over a decade ago. Dublin deserve and need an All-Ireland. In fact, Dublin, Cork and Mayo are the most deserving counties of All-Ireland success. Dublin haven’t won since 1995, Cork since 1990, and Mayo since 1951. But, each year they are among the favourites. So, if Kerry don’t win the All-Ireland in the next three years, which, hopefully, and most unlikely won’t happen, my magic wand would produce the following results based on merit alone — Cork 2009 — Dublin 2010 — Mayo 2011 What odds on that now?
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved