Mickey Whelan believes hard-nosed Dublin can make it five
‘These guys go out expecting to win and it’s difficult to get people to get to that level’
Former Dublin manager Mickey Whelan at the launch of the GAA’s online GAA learning portal LCPE.ie at Croke Park. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
The last thing Mickey Whelan means to play is any ‘told you so’ games, but he always said this Dublin would win four All-Irelands, and he fully expects them to win the five-in-a-row as well.
Whelan is well positioned: he managed Dublin for two seasons after their 1995 All-Ireland, without much success, then came back under manager Pat Gilroy when they closed that 16-year gap with the 2011 victory, before both men stepped aside in 2012 to clear the way for Jim Gavin.
“When I stepped down, I told you guys they’d win four All-Irelands,” says Whelan, “but not in-a-row!
“There’s a lot of that team have won six. It was a great boost but they worked hard. We flogged them to change their mentality, they were soft. I’m afraid to see any of these guys walking through the streets! Ah, they’re a great crew, a great crew and Jim Gavin’s done a fabulous job with them.”
Did Whelan say that Dublin footballers pre-Gilroy were soft? He did, kind of.
“I didn’t say they were soft, I said I just wanted to make sure they weren’t soft, do you know what I mean?
“The other thing is that the team that won, the 60s team that won, we were the second [Dublin] team to beat Kerry in an All-Ireland championship in 84 years. 84 years, do you understand that? Two wins in 84 years. And that was in everybody’s heads, particularly in Kerry’s heads, they’re coming up saying, ‘These guys never beat us’. But the roles have changed now. I think we’re a bit in their heads.”
Whelan also helped change some of the Dublin football mentality when he managed St Vincent’s to the All-Ireland club title in 2008: these days all hype is a thing of the past.
“There’s an awful lot of work being done in the background with Dublin, with underage teams and the likes of John Costello doing a phenomenal job as CEO, all the way down they’ve got all their acts together. They’re not going to be easy to beat at any stage.
“And I think they have a great chance of getting five-in-a-row, yeah. Just take each year at a time, ‘The next Championship is what we’re looking at’. And they take it game by game. Counting your chickens before they’ve hatched doesn’t exist anymore in Dublin.”
No danger of the hype getting to them?
“Bullshit. If you keep thinking about it, it’ll be noise in their brain. But they don’t. It’s just another Championship, simple as that. They’re not worried about it now , it’ll start when it starts and they’ll be ready for it.
“That’s the thing about them, these guys go out expecting to win and it’s difficult to get people to get to that level. Winning builds that up. They’re not thinking about themselves, it’s very much a team thing, they’re working with each other. If they’re left off they accept it, they’re working harder to get back in, that’s the way it is. So they’re not even thinking of the five-in-a-row.”
Whelan came back in with Gilroy on the Dublin hurling management ticket, only for Gilroy to step aside after one year due to work commitments: Mattie Kenny will go an excellent job, he says, but don’t rule out Gilroy making another return. The decision to leave Dublin hurling “shattered” him.
“The players knew very soon once he saw there was no way out. He did everything in his power. And the players and management, everyone tried to make it available that the thing could continue.
“But with Pat just, it just wasn’t possible. He’s creating a lot of employment for people in South Africa. And there’s a lot of other things now beyond hurling and football. So apart from business, it’s the environment he’s creating and the employment he’s creating for people.
“But I thought we put together a nice set-up and got it off the ground. And we changed it a little bit. We changed the mental profile. And that’s important. You have to be prepared to hurt to get anywhere, to make the steps you need.”