Gilroy ready to assume reins


PAT GILROY is expected to take control of the Dublin footballers to face Mick O'Dwyer's Wicklow in Parnell Park this Sunday, after the new manager returns from a week of training and familiarisation with an extended panel in La Manga on Saturday.

The make-up of his team is yet to be confirmed but the St Vincent's All-Ireland club medal winner couldn't return to a better scenario after what was a third string line-up beat Offaly in the opening round of the O'Byrne Cup in Tullamore last weekend.

With only three fringe players from last season's panel involved - Philip McMahon, Declan Lally and Declan O'Mahony - a Dublin selection jointly managed by Neil Curley and Mick Bohan exceeded all expectations to guide the defending champions into the quarter-finals.

"We had the lads on the Friday for a kick around," said Curley. "A lot of them had already played in the development tournament up in Innisfails in late October when Pat Gilroy came up with the initiative to put regionalised teams against each other for the first time. That proved to be a good idea for unearthing new players.

"They played really well. I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of players - they are good, honest club footballers but several of them have played at this level before, like Declan Lally and Declan O'Mahony. Others saw it as an opportunity to show what they are about. There was a fantastic attitude from those identifying it as their first chance.

"There was no secret to it; just a good honest attitude. They did themselves proud. They really played as a team. There were good individual performances but it was more about the collective display."

Curley, a member of the Raheny club in north Dublin, was quick to also praise Gilroy's promise to release inter-county players for more club games throughout the coming campaign.

"Pat basically made a big call when he came in that county players will play more club football this year. This means the established lads will get more game time - which will be good for them and good for the club scene in general. In times gone by our Dublin footballers in Raheny would miss up to 60 per cent of the season. That won't happen now."

Curley, like most managers, was supportive of the new rules experiments but, also like most managers, issued a few words of caution. "I think the yellow card experiment is worth a crack. There can be no sloppy tackling or you will get a yellow. The fear factor, of course, is the physicality will go out of the game.

"James O'Connor was shown a yellow and I think everyone present agreed it didn't even merit a black card. He was going for a 60-40 ball with Ciarán McManus.

"It was a sloppy ball and he put in a fair shoulder. The guy was inconsolable coming off as he had been playing really well."

Gilroy will give further indication this morning, from La Manga, whether he will retain the current group of players or select from those training in Spain.

There was also a suggestion that an under-21 side will be fielded but this would be weakened by the absence of players due to commitments to third level sides. The likelihood is a combination of all three will feature.

Meanwhile, Setanta Sports have confirmed all but four of their live and deferred games in the upcoming national football and hurling leagues, starting with the eagerly anticipated floodlit match between Dublin and All-Ireland champions Tyrone at Croke Park on January 31st.

Dublin feature again against last year's league champions Derry on March 14th, while the only national hurling match scheduled so far is between Tipperary and Cork on February 14th.