Some eyebrows were raised when Pat Gilroy’s name came into the conversation in July with regard to the Dublin senior hurling manager’s position vacated by Ger Cunningham.
It’s believed that the man who delivered the senior footballers to the All-Ireland promised land in 2011 was up against the man who led Dalkey club Cuala to the same heights in the senior club championship last St Patrick’s Day, Mattie Kenny.
After a false start at a county board meeting over a week ago, Gilroy was finally revealed as the man to take over a depleted panel in which morale would appear to have dipped since the heady days of Anthony Daly’s very successful period in charge.
The one glaring difference between Gilroy and Kenny’s C.V.s was the fact that the former’s contained no small ball management experience at a senior level.
“No,” Gilroy admitted today when asked if he actually had experience managing senior hurlers at the launch of the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival at Croke Park.
“I did the under-8s in St Vincents there last year and I did the under-8s and 9s and 10s and 11s and 14s many years ago! So I would have managed a lot of hurling teams but all juvenile hurling teams.”
So what would he see as the main difference in moving up from managing younger players?
“Probably the kids don’t answer you back as much as the intercounty fellas do!” he replies with a grin.
“Actually there are quite a lot of similarities when you’re doing juvenile teams to when you’re doing adult teams. Same principles are applying really.”
As Gilroy explained himself further he touched on one of his best qualities as a GAA manager, the ability to delegate well.
"There’s obviously a hell of a lot more help when you’re doing an intercounty team so you’ve got a lot more people to do all the jobs that you have to do when you’re managing a juvenile team.
“You also have a situation where obviously all the other counties have that as well. So I suppose the level of analysis that goes on is at a different level than when you’re involved in club teams, whether that’s juvenile or senior club teams. You can hide things, probably, in club that you probably can’t hide in senior intercounty because there’s just so much information available. So that’s a big challenge, trying to out-think other people, is a big challenge.”
Then there’s the task of selecting the people he plans to surround himself with. Former Galway manager Anthony Cunningham is one of the names that have been mentioned and it’s believed that the man who led the Tribesmen to under-21 All-Ireland success against the Dubs in 2011 is open to the idea.
“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,” said Gilroy, clearing not wanting to give too much away.
“I spoke to a lot of people. Everyone was interested that I spoke to but for various reasons, work reasons or whatever, some couldn’t commit. I’m almost there with a full backroom team but that takes a lot of time. I only got [the position] last Wednesday so it’s been quite a busy time trying to get that assembled.”
No sooner had the St Vincent’s club man been appointed, then rumours of clubmate Diarmuid Connolly’s possible switch to the county’s hurling panel began to emerge. Speaking to eirSport before the weekend's club games Connolly himself said: “I’m 30 this year…in my mind’s eye I probably would have been able to do it if I went and picked hurling at 20 or 21 years of age but I went the other way and picked football so I think that ship has sailed.”
Does Gilroy think it could be a realistic prospect?
"Really and truly, it's up to him. It would be a huge ask for a fella who has played two matches-a-year for ten years. St Vincents weren't very good over the last ten years. To then turn around and say at 30 years of age now I'm going to switch over.
"There was other guys who did it like Conal Keaney but Conal was playing a lot of hurling, he was playing a LOT of hurling, so switching over was easy. So I think it would be a big ask.”
But Gilroy is also keen to maintain a good relationship with the man who took the reins from him back in 2012.
"To be honest, I'm not going to do anything here. I put a lot of time and effort in my little contribution to Dublin football. I'm not going to do anything to damage that either. I want to see that being successful. We're both Dublin teams. We should be working together. We're both for the same cause. I have a very good relationship with Jim and I don't see that changing."
One player who is more likely to pick up a hurl in a blue shirt is St Jude’s clubman Danny Sutcliffe who withdrew from the panel under Ger Cunningham and as one of the hottest talents in the capital, he's definitely someone the supporters would love to see back involved.
"Danny is an outstanding hurler. There's no doubt about it but I don’t know 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 in New York.
“I think he’s still abroad but I think he is intending to come back home. So if he’s back home and he’s hurling with his club and he wants to play, if he plays anything like what he did before, he’d be a fella you’d definitely want to have.”
Newly appointed Dublin hurling manager, Pat Gilroy was in Croke Park today to help launch the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival, also supported by Aer Lingus. On November 19, Dublin will take on Galway and Tipperary will face Clare in Fenway Park with the winning sides from both proceeding to a final for a chance to win the inaugural Players Champions Cup. This is the second time in three years that hurling, in the “Super 11’s” format, will be played at the venue. Tickets for the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic and Irish Festival can be purchased at www.redsox.com/hurling.