After sudden Gilroy exit, will Dublin turn to Galway to solve hurling manager issue?

APPOINTED IN OCTOBER 2017, departed in September 2018.

Pat Gilroy’s first spell as Dublin senior manager may have been a wide-ranging one, overseeing an exhaustive process to overhaul the fortunes of the county’s football side, but his second tenure, at the helm of the county hurling team, ended up being brief as it lasted just a single season.

Cunningham and Kenny are linked with the role that Gilroy has vacated.

He pulled the plug officially last night as he cited work commitments, reasoning that provided a neat symmetry with his previous departure.

“It has been a challenging four years for me balancing my role with Dublin along with family and work commitments and I have decided not to continue for a further term,” remarked Gilroy back in September 2012, as he relayed the news that he was moving on from the footballers.

In the space of six years, the pace of life off the pitch has not eased off for Gilroy and the demands placed on those directing operations on the sideline has continued to ratchet up.

His hurling spell in charge sparked promise, generated regrets and will likely be reviewed in frustration that he only got a season to place his stamp on proceedings. The bald statistics point to a record of three wins and six losses from the nine games Dublin played between league and championship in 2018.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

They didn’t challenge for promotion from Division 1B in the league, needed to beat Laois on the last day to avoid a relegation play-off and failed to emerge from the Leinster round-robin series as their involvement concluded in Salthill on Saturday 9 June.

But that conceals the true narrative of their campaign. Emphatic losses to Offaly and Limerick, along with a narrow win over Antrim, illustrated their grim start to the spring.

Yet they were highly competitive in championship. The opening matches against Kilkenny and Wexford effectively killed their hopes of pushing into the All-Ireland series but both games saw winning positions slip from their grasp late on. They ran Galway to a point after swatting aside Offaly but it was those early losses, particularly against Kilkenny after they had held the initiative for so long, that hurt them most.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Gilroy succeeded in coaxing the likes of Alan Nolan, Danny Sutcliffe and Conal Keaney back into the fold to make an impact. He got plenty out of stationing Liam Rushe at full-forward, saw Chris Crummey’s defensive excellence yield an All-Star nomination by the close of the summer and introduce youngsters like Paddy Smyth to senior life. An early June exit masked the strides they had made and the consensus formed that they had the raw materials to build under Gilroy’s watch in 2019.

His departure now breeds uncertainty in the Dublin hurling climate. It means three of the four counties that lost out after the provincial round-robin campaigns are searching for someone to fill their hotseats.

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But whereas Derek McGrath left Waterford on 18 June and Michael Ryan bid farewell to Tipperary on 2 August, Dublin have been struck by the requirements to start a managerial hunt in mid-September at a time when those two other counties are closing in on successors and a selection of other rivals have already shifted their minds to 2019.

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The crux of the matter when considering Gilroy’s replacement is whether Dublin will turn to a Galway figure. Mattie Kenny was a big challenger to fill the position last year. He may not be a native of the capital but that belies the level of insight and familiarity he possesses from his work with Cuala.

Seven major championship trophies – three Dublin, two Leinster and two All-Ireland – have been garnered under Kenny’s supervision since October 2015. His prior work in coaching the Galway seniors means he has an inter-county string to his bow.

There is another Galway contender who ticks the boxes in terms of insight and experience. Anthony Cunningham’s work alongside Gilroy this year means he would offer a level of continuity to the current squad. He has an array of previous successful roles in football and hurling with teams like St Brigid’s, Garrycastle and the Galway U21s while he was boss of the Galway senior side for four seasons.

Anthony Cunningham and Mattie Kenny during their time in charge of Galway.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

But irrespective of the strong credentials of prospective replacements, the task of finding someone new is a jolt to the Dublin hurling setup.

The timing is a headache for the Dublin county board, a delay will leave the new boss hamstrung for the early stages of 2019.

Results did not swing Gilroy’s way this year but the brightness of the latter performances pointed to the prospect of better to come in 2019.

His departure leaves everything looking unclear again.

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