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'We wouldn’t be losing sleep over it' - a low-key January start for the Gilroy hurling era in Dublin

The new Dublin boss got up and running with a Walsh Cup victory last night.

Pat Gilroy New Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

AS BEGINNINGS GO, last night was low-key.

It’s only just over seven miles from Croke Park to the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown but the contrast was stark between the venue where Pat Gilroy finished his stint in charge with the Dublin footballers to the ground where he started out with the Dublin hurlers.

After four years in charge of the Dublin footballers – during which he produced the act of deliverance by halting that 16-year wait for Sam Maguire – his last outing was the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final when a second-half comeback fell short against Mayo.

Pat Gilroy celebrates the final whistle Pat Gilroy celebrates after Dublin's All-Ireland final win over Kerry in 2011. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

He bowed out with his reputation embellished before his second act as Dublin manager was confirmed last October, the twist being the county’s hurling team was placed under his supervision.

And so after a trip to Fenway Park last November and to Marino in December, the exhibition stuff ended last night and the competitive fare began.

A Walsh Cup opener on a bone-chilling January Wednesday night was never going to lure the masses.

The setting is just over two years old, €12 million pumped into a facility that ensured the GAA could pitch a home at the sports campus in West Dublin.

Meath were a central theme back in Gilroy’s Dublin football reign. They ransacked the Dublin defence for five goals in 2010, an event that had a profound impact on the county’s football direction. They were the opponents when he won his last piece of silverware in the 2012 Leinster final.

Last night their hurlers provided the challenge. Dublin dished out a 16-point beating but their new supremo was not wheeling away in celebration.

“We want to get to see players and we’ve done a bit of training, but nothing beats playing games,” stated Gilroy.

“It was good to get the result but we wouldn’t be losing sleep over it at this time of year anyway.”

The Dublin team shunted into action was a typical early season mix. Youngsters like 2016 Leinster minor winning captain Paddy Smyth. A couple of attackers like Paul Winters and Fergal Whitely – who struck 0-13 between them – hoping to make their mark.

A corner-forward in Fionn Ó Riain-Broin who shot 2-1 after playing corner-back in the hammering last July at the hands of Tipperary.

The steadying presence of established defenders Shane Barrett and Chris Crummey.

And then there was the return of familiar faces. Alan Nolan was in control in goal and made a smart first-half block. Johnny McCaffrey was full of endeavour at midfield.

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Gilroy was heartened to see the man who lifted the Bob O’Keeffe Cup in 2013 back in action.

John McCaffrey raises the O'Keeffe cup Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He’s great. Fellas like him, with his attitude and his commitment, those guys don’t shirk anything. They’re still mad hungry for hurling. They want success and they give their best the whole time.

“So it’s great having fellas like him around. As you can see, it’s January and his appetite for the game is well and truly there.”

The bigger challenges lie ahead with reminders last night of the major forces in Leinster.

Gilroy’s right-hand man on the sideline was Anthony Cunningham, perfectly placed to provide an insight into the talent that Galway possess.

In the Meath coaching ranks in front of the main stand were Martin Comerford and Michael Kavanagh, a pair of Cats with 14 All-Ireland senior medals and 8 All-Star awards.

There’s spades of work for Dublin left to do, last night the first step. On Saturday lunchtime Gilroy takes a team to Dr Morris Park to face Tipperary in a challenge.

Pat Gilroy Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

On Sunday afternoon he’ll wheel another side into action in Parnell Park for a meeting with Antrim, a victory there will propel Dublin into a semi-final.

“Any game is worth more than any training session for us,” outlined Gilroy.

“So it’s just great to get these games in January, particularly for us when we’re new into it, to get the chance to see fellas and give them a fair chance.

“We’ve a few games this month, so it means everyone will get games. And that’s what we want to do at this time of year.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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