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'I will always learn off Pat' - Cunningham on working with Gilroy

Anthony Cunningham has enjoyed being part of Pat Gilroy’s backroom team so far.

Image: John McIlwaine/INPHO

WHEN THE CALL came from Pat Gilroy to join the Dublin backroom team, Anthony Cunningham was excited to get back to what he enjoys most – coaching.

He served as Galway hurling boss from 2012 to 2015 and prior to that spent three seasons in charge of the Tribe U21s.

Cunningham initially made his name as an astute football manager, enjoying considerable success with Garrycastle in Westmeath and St Brigid’s in Roscommon. Prior to that, he was in charge of the Roscommon senior hurlers for a couple of seasons.

He’s also held several coaching roles since he left the Galway job, working with the Laois footballers in 2016 and Dublin senior football side Thomas Davis last year.

The offer to get involved in a coaching capacity with an inter-county hurling squad was too good to pass up for the Galway native.

“I am delighted to get to do a bit more coaching because you are on the field with the players,” he said.

“Even with Galway I used to love the coaching side of it and being on the pitch. We share it out. Pat is very well organised and has great authority.

“He has brought huge experience to the set-up. I will always learn off Pat. In his management set-up he has also brought in Mickey Whelan, Paddy O’Donoghue, Sean Brady – guys he had worked with through the football years as well. It is a very well-oiled machine.”

2018 Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Launch Cunningham was speaking at the Leinster SHC launch in McKee Barracks Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Gilroy would have been primarily viewed as a football man before he took the Dublin hurling role, but his management style has impressed Cunningham.

“He has a great way with his system of coaching, it is really, really strong,” he explains.

“The way he would go is to give a lot of the responsibility to the players to figure out work, to talk about moves and to talk about tactics to develop their own game.

“If a player doesn’t have it or know where he has to improve, it is very hard to get that point across. It starts with number one, the player has to know what to improve on.”

Cunningham is buoyant about the younger breed of hurlers on the squad, such as Donal Burke and Eoghan O’Donnell, who he believes will mix it with the best of them once they’re fully developed.

“They have been through a lot of coaching. There are very good coaches and very good clubs, a lot of people have put a lot of good work into Dublin. It is emerging, patience is also what people have to have because these lads will develop into fine players.

“It is going to take time. You can see the progress. We will be looking for a major surprise over the summer, that is what we want – a big scalp.

“We are massively looking forward to the challenges, we think we have the players that can definitely compete with the best of them.”

The Dublin team arrive Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

The 52-year-old says no stone has been left unturned in their preparations, with the hurlers enjoying most of the same perks as Jim Gavin’s football squad.

“We have put in huge preparations under Pat and we are really looking forward to it.

“All inter-county teams now have a very high standard, medically it is very astute, we have same medical doctors and physios as the football team. Bryan Cullen looks after the strength and conditioning across Dublin in both football and hurling so is part of the set-up.

“The same nutritionist, the same type of food, the same environment we train in, the same conditions, so it is very well organised and very well ran. It is a well-oiled machine and even at this stage its young in its nature, in that it is only formed back in the last year.

“We have seen a huge amount of players, we have played a lot of internal games and we have done a lot of work over the league. It is great to have the extra (Cuala) players back.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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