Pat Gilroy: ‘Hopefully we can move the thing on’
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
By John Harrington
Newly appointed Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy spoke with the online media at this afternoon’s launch of the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic which takes place in Boston’s Fenway Park on November 19.
Over the course of a wide-ranging interview he outlined his plans and ambitions in the role for the coming years and revealed:
• He hopes all the best hurlers in the county will want to play for his team, including Danny Sutcliffe.
• He regards himself as a GAA man rather than a football or hurling man.
• He’s close to finalising his backroom team.
• It would be a ‘huge ask’ for Diarmuid Connolly to make a go of senior inter-county hurling.
• Dublin should at the very least aspire to be a consistent top-four hurling team.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about players who weren’t in the Dublin panel this year. Is your first priority to get the best panel of Dublin hurlers together you possibly can?
Pat Gilroy: Yeah, it has to be. It has to be fellas who want to play and that are keen to play. You want to have the best ones available who really want to be there.
That’s the bottom line. I suppose the club championship is on at the moment. Players are all with their clubs, generally speaking. I’ve got to a good few of them over the last few weeks. Vincent’s were involved so I was going anyway. I got to see a good few matches.
There’s a lot of good hurlers out there. Some of them for whatever reason haven’t been playing over the last few years. If they want to play and they’re good enough, everyone will have a chance.
Q: Have you made contact with any players yet who walked away from the panel in the past?
PG: No, I haven’t. As far as things stand, once the year is finished, the squad is finished. I think to be fair to everyone in Dublin, it’s a blank sheet of paper for us. We’ll be giving everyone a chance. We have to outline some plans to the County Board by the weekend.
Once they have them and they’re happy with what we’re suggesting we’ll do it over the next few months, we’ll start getting in touch with people about the things that we want to do before we get fully up and running in January.
Q: Are you looking forward to getting back into the cut and thrust of inter-county management?
PG: There’s parts of it that I am looking forward to for sure. Being involved with a group of lads who are all going for common purposes is very rewarding and it’s great to do it for your own county.
It means a lot to be, hurling means a lot to me, my county means a lot to me. I wouldn’t say I’m a hurling man or a football man, I’m a GAA man. Camogie means a lot to me because I’ve a daughter who plays that too. It’s a great sport. For me doing anything in the GAA is rewarding. There’s parts of it, though, that can be difficult.
Q: There’s obviously huge potential in Dublin hurling. Is the challenge to get the senior inter-county team up to the next level an attractive one for you?
PG: I’m looking at my own kids, they’d play both games at the moment. They’d have a view that they’d be edging towards football, they don’t see the same chances of being as successful with the hurling. I’d like them to make a decision eventually when they do have to make one for the right reasons. Hopefully, we can move the thing on.
Dublin have been competitive over the last 10 years in hurling. It’s not like we’re at the very bottom. When a team transitions, though, it can be difficult. There’s an awful lot of good things happening in the last few years.
You will have funny performances when you have so many new people coming in. There was a lot of very encouraging things: beating Limerick last year (in 2015) was a pretty impressive performance on the day. Younger teams, it consistently takes them a couple of years. I think there’s a lot of good signs there around the county with the amount of hurling that’s being played.
Q: Is mindset a key thing when looking for improvement with this Dublin hurling team? You worked a lot on the mindset of the Dublin footballers to turn them from a nearly-team into champions. Is self-belief something you need to work on with the hurlers?
PG: At this stage, I couldn’t comment on that because I haven’t been in a dressing room with 25 Dublin hurlers. I’d have talked to fellas individually that I would have known from the football times over the last number of years. It would be very hard to assess where their mindset was at. Dips in performance could be down to a number of things, that they’re developing physically. I don’t know, it would be too easy to just jump to that conclusion without really knowing the full facts.
Q: Is it a self-perception issue? There’s a perception of Dublin that they’re not a traditional hurling team. Is that silly thinking?
PG: It could be. I genuinely don’t know what’s in their heads. That’s something that we really need to find out when we start assembling a group to see what is their perception of things. What do they really, really think? Do they really think they have a chance of success at the top level? There are a lot of fellas still knocking around there who have National League medals, that have Leinster Championship medals, that have won U21 Leinsters and that. They have had quite a lot of success but just not the top success.
Q: Will this be your first time managing a hurling team?
PG: No, I did the Under 8s in Vincent’s there last year. I did the Under 8s, 9s, 10, 11s, and 14s many years ago. I would have managed a lot of hurling teams, but all juvenile hurling teams, you know.
Q: What will be the main challenges of stepping up to managing an inter-county hurling team?
PG: Probably that the kids don’t answer you back as much as the inter-county fellas! Actually, there’s quite a lot of similarities to when you’re doing juvenile teams to when you’re doing adult teams. Same principles are applying, really. You, obviously, have a hell of a lot more help when you’re doing an inter-county team. You have a lot more people to do all of the jobs that you have to do when you’re doing a juvenile team.
You also have the situation where all the other counties have that as well. I suppose the level of analysis that goes on is at a different level than when you’re involved with club teams – whether that’s juvenile or senior club teams. You can hide things in club that you can’t hide in senior inter-county because there’s just so much information available. That’s a big challenge, trying to outthink other people is a big challenge.
Q: A former inter-county manager’s name has been floated as someone who will come in with you as part of your management team. Have you spoken to anyone about that?
PG: I’ve spoken to a number of people, I almost have a team assembled, but I’ve got to run that by the County Board first. I spoke to a lot of people, some people were interested and some people were not interested for various reasons.
Everyone was interested who I spoke to, but for various reasons, work reasons or whatever, some of them couldn’t commit. I’m almost there with a full backroom team, but that takes a lot of time and I only got it last Wednesday so it’s been quite a busy time trying to get that fully assembled.
Q: Can you reveal any names?
PG: I could, but I’m not going to. It wouldn’t be appropriate at all because the County Board have to agree both it and our plans for the next couple of months.
Q: Is Danny Sutcliffe someone you want back on the Dublin panel?
A: Danny is an outstanding hurler, there’s no doubt about it. But, again, I don’t know at this stage what his own plans are. The last time I actually met him was in New York. He was working in New York and I happened to bump into him there.
I think he’s still abroad but I think he’s intending to come back home. If he’s back home and he’s hurling with his club and he wants to play and if he plays like anything he did before then he’d be a fella you’d definitely want to have.
Q: Your St. Vincent’s club-mate, Diarmuid Connolly, has been mentioned as a potential Dublin hurling panellist in the future. Is that realistic proposition, that he might start hurling for his county?
PG: You’re better off asking him that, than me. Because really and truly it’s up to him. It would be a huge ask for a fella who has played two hurling matches a year for ten years, because Vincent’s weren’t very good for the last ten years, to then turn around and say at 30 years of age now I’m going to switch over.
There were other guys who did it like Conal Keaney, but Conal was playing a lot of hurling with his club. So I think it would be a big ask for him (Connolly).
And, to be honest, I’m not going to do anything here that has…you know, I put a lot of time and effort into my little contribution to Dublin football and I’m not going to do anything to damage that either. I want to see that being successful.
It’s one of the things I suppose, we’re both Dublin teams, you know, and we should be working together. We’re both for the same cause. I’d have a very good relationship with Jim and I don’t see that changing.
Q: What can you bring from your football experience with Dublin to the hurling set-up? Would it be culture more than technical coaching acumen?
PG: Harsh! That’s harsh! Did you ever see me playing hurling?! I study hurling a lot and I suppose maybe if you weren’t that good at something you try to figure out what people are doing.
I wouldn’t have been particularly good at hurling, I was alright, I won a few championships alright with Vincents.
I played senior hurling first. I played senior hurling straight out of minor. Then I was called onto a Dublin Under 21 football team. I played two games, and that was it, I never played hurling again.
I suppose it’s all aspects. You have to have a little bit of what you want from all the different parts of it whether it’s culture whether it’s sports science. You have to have experts there as well who you rely on, but you also have to tell them what you want and what you’re looking for because I suppose a manager’s job is to make sure there’s a certain direction that you’re trying to achieve and then everybody knows then with their own particular job how they can get you towards that direction.
So there’s a lot of thought that has to be put into that. And, you know, you might start off thinking a certain way and then you might find out other things about opposition or even about your own group and you might say they’re never going to be able to do that so we might have to go this way. You have to play with the talent you have in front of you and then figure it all out.
Q: You’ve been successful at pretty much everything you’ve done in life. Presumably you wouldn’t have taken on this job if you didn’t think you could be a success at it?
PG: Yeah, well, like, success, you know, you can count it and just say success is winning All-Irelands. But, for me, success would be in the three years that we play our best game as our last game of the Championship. If we perform to our absolute best, then you can’t do anything more than that.
If that’s good enough to take you over the line and win something, then that’s great. But sometimes…I had great years as a player with my club where we really gave everything and lost a final by a point, but it was nearly as good as success because we couldn’t have done anymore. We left everything on the field.
If we got that, then I think that would help Dublin hurling in terms of getting more long-term success and becoming a more traditional top four team.
Because we’ve been kind of in and out of it for the last 10 years. But to get consistency and be up at that level getting into semi-finals regularly, it should be the ambition.
There are so many kids playing hurling here and they need to have a place to go and believe that Dublin guys can achieve at the very top.
Q: As a new manager coming in were there any assurances or guarantees from the Dublin County Board that swayed your mind or put it at ease?
PG: I wouldn’t do things like that, ask for assurances or guarantees. No, we had a very open discussion about everything, to be honest. It was very, very clear.
I obviously have a very good relationship with most of the guys in there from the past and it was just straight-talking. Everybody was very clear about what the expectations were regarding several different things. There was nothing in writing, it was just an understanding, that’s all.
Q: Is this trip to Boston in November for the Fenway Hurling Classic a positive in terms of putting together a team?
PG: I think it will, but, again, it’s kind of a difficult one because you’ve got to leave the players with the Club Championship at the moment and then after that decide who’s going to go and we’ve got some ideas we need to pass with the County Board about how we might go about that.
Maybe there’ll be guys who might be suited to that game, particularly at this time of year, who may not be in your longer-term plans, potentially.
And guys getting that time off work at short notice is going to be difficult, so we’ve a bit of logistics to figure out with that.
It should be useful, hopefully we can get a bit of training done over there. It’s coming very quick for us, we’re still assembling our backroom team and trying to organise our plans. But it is, it should be positive.