Conal Keaney - Dublin Senior Hurling

The Dublin boss confirms Conal Keaney wants to continue with the Dublin Senior Hurlers for at least another year.

Back in October of last year when the Dublin County Board ratified former All Ireland Football winning Dublin Manager Pat Gilroy as their new man at the helm of the Senior Hurling set up, it would be understated that a lot of collective heads were scratched.

None more than Dublin’s hurling fans, who had witnessed many highs during the tenure of a staunch hurler in Anthony Daly, and many lows in the years that followed under former Cork All Ireland winner and Selector Ger Cunningham. They had been dealt two hands at either end of the spectrum, and were now been thrown into an abyss of the unknown.

There could be no denying Gilroy as a man manager and motivator, a man that says he will do a job and does it. But hurling?

However, once the St. Vincent’s man put together his backroom team, to include his old friend and colleague Mickey Whelan, and former Galway hurling manager Anthony Cunningham, the mood began to quickly change from wonder to optimism.

And the question on most people lips was “who will he bring into the playing panel?”. The reason we know is during Ger Cunningham’s time many players left, or were surplus to the requirements of the manager.

The Boys Came Back

And as expected, one by one, players started to emerge from the shadows of the previous three years. Players like Alan Nolan, Paul Ryan, Danny Sutcliffe, Johnny McCaffrey, and of course Conal Keaney, all answered the call. And as we’ve seen in the last number of months, all have made a world of difference to the panel once again.

Sadly for Gilroy, his first year in charge is already finished, in a somewhat disappointing fashion when you see the performances the Dubs put in from their League game against Galway, right through to their Championship fixture against the Tribesmen last weekend.

Nonetheless, the new Dublin manager has certainly not disappointed fans in his first year. And by all accounts is already planning for 2019 and will be scowering the landscape.

“We’ll certainly be shaking every bush and tree after the club championship this autumn to find fellas that can bring the thing on further next year.” Gilroy told the Independent.

“You’re back to a blank sheet of paper.”

But one thing he’s quite sure of is that the returning Ballyboden star Conal Keaney is adamant he wants to continue.

Keaney Stays On

Most were surprised when his name was announced in the media at the start of the year after the 36 year old had retired from inter county hurling in 2016. But Keaney has played this season like he’d never left and was pivotal in Dublin’s Leinster Championship run, despite suffering during the opening game against Kilkenny.

“He’s keen to progress. The shape he’s in, why would you stop?”

Gilroy is also keeping a closer eye on Colm Cronin, who went to Africa this year, knowing next year that won’t be an issue.

In addition, there are some injuries that ruled others out of big spells this year that Pat will monitor and assess, like Donal Burke, who thankfully lines out tonight with the U21’s against Westmeath, and of course Eamonn Dillon who has been a massive loss to Dublin this year.

“Eamonn (right) was just so unlucky with injuries this year, you couldn’t make it up.”

“It was the first time I saw an injury that actually got worse when he was doing nothing. And it was one of those … it was a freak injury that just got bigger and bigger.”

“But he’s back now. And he’ll be a big player for us next year.”

January feels like a long time away for Gilroy but there’s no doubt they’ll use the months following the county championship to work on some of the names yet to make an impact.

“There’s a mood around the group where we feel like we’re only getting going around now,” he admitted.

“And that we’re only starting to gel as a group and yet the year is over.”

“We’re going to sit down and see if there is opportunities to do things in this interim period.”