Danny Sutcliffe confident Dublin on the right track under Gilroy
Former All Star says proper structure is in place for hurlers to make progress
Danny Sutcliffe: “The only thing we can do is prepare ourselves as best we can to give a good performance in May.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Danny Sutcliffe hadn’t arrived in time for Dublin’s breakthrough league title seven years ago and at this stage the county is a fair way off the heady achievements of the early decade.
After a season which threatened more downward movement than promotion from Division 1B, the county is in the random position of being sandwiched between Sunday’s league finalists, having played Tipperary in their last match, a quarter-final thumping in Croke Park, and preparing to face Kilkenny in the first of the new Leinster round-robin matches.
“I think Tipperary are the bar in the country at the moment,” according to Sutcliffe, “and fair play to Kilkenny because I don’t think people expected them to get to the final. They’ve done really well and they’re always going to be there, that’s the way, they won’t go away.
“I can’t wait. The only thing we can do is prepare ourselves as best we can to give a good performance in May.”
Despite the good start against Tipp two weeks ago and the additional advantage of the opposition having had Ronan Maher red-carded, Dublin were burned off without fuss in the second half, concluding a schedule that featured wins over only Laois and Antrim.
“I wouldn’t say disappointing,” said Sutcliffe about the league campaign.
“It was a building phase. When we came in at the start, some lads didn’t even know each other. I wouldn’t have known the 18- or 19-year-olds. I would never have met them.
“Then we were out in January for our first league game. We’re learning and we were trying to improve every week to get a performance that we pinpointed at the start of the year in May. So we’re moving towards that.”
Having taken off for two years in New York, the 2013 All Star accepted an invitation from new manager Pat Gilroy to rejoin the panel. Gilroy’s surprise appointment came five years after stepping down from managing the footballers, who he restored to All-Ireland prominence in 2011.
“He took the football job at a tough time and he had no experience and I appreciate someone who can back themselves like that. If he’s putting himself out there, the way he did the footballers, obviously people are going to come in behind him, a man with direction is what you look to.
“He made a statement by taking the job so straight away I was enamoured by that and I wanted to be a part of it. He provides a brilliant structure and a brilliant platform for us to play on. He has full belief in our players. And he wants it – as a Dublin man – just as much as the players.
“We obviously want to do something together as a group. And he’s provided us with a brilliant place to train. There’s a really good team ethos there. And we’re around the footballers during the week as well. It’s great. We have them as a marker as well. We don’t have to look to anywhere else.”
Sutcliffe played football for New York in last year’s Connacht Championship but despite some vague rumours a few years ago that he might consider switching games, Sutcliffe dismisses the idea. “I wouldn’t be good enough for that team anyway,” he quips.
In the middle of the uncertainty caused by the changes in management and playing personnel and the struggle of the league campaign, there was good news for Dublin hurling when county champions Cuala put All-Ireland titles back to back.
Sutcliffe is looking forward to getting the Dalkey contingent back on board and says there’ll be no reintegration problems.
“I’d love to be coming back in after a club All-Ireland so I’d integrate anyway. But no, I don’t think so. You’ve seen the type of players that are coming in – Jake Malone, Cian O’Callaghan – they’re a versatile type of player. Cian’s obviously been there a few years, David Treacy is coming back in. He’ll be doing something similar for us the way he did for Cuala.
“I suppose what Pat’s going to be loving about them is they work extremely hard and I’ve probably never seen a team to tackle as well as Cuala did this year in terms of they don’t leave their hand in, the hurl never touches the helmet. They’re everything that we want and then it’s just maybe the finer details getting together. But as a bunch of players to come in they’re really going to add to us definitely.”
He is hopeful Mark Schutte, who he describes as “my best mate from school” will be part of the Cuala contingent even though he accepts that one of the club’s biggest names, Young Footballer of the Year Con O’Callaghan whose stated preference is to concentrate on the big ball, definitely won’t.
“He has a good head on his shoulders and he’ll be able to make his own mind up. It’s wishful thinking I suppose.”