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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Pat Nolan

Could Pat Gilroy go back as anything less than No 1 with Dublin? We look back at others who have

The news this week that Pat Gilroy is being lined up for a return to the Dublin football set-up has induced some head-scratching.

Just what would his role be? And, as an All-Ireland winning manager, why would he go back as anything less than the main man?

Those questions remain unanswered for now and, of course, there is no confirmation that Gilroy is back on board just yet.

But there is a growing precedent for recalibrating former managers in the inter-county game just now, which is probably a reflection of how difficult it is for one man to carry the bulk of the load these days.

The Kerry management team that Jack O’Connor headed up this year contained two former inter-county managers in Mike Quirke and Paddy Tally.

The Galway team that they beat in the All-Ireland final had ex-Kildare boss Cian O’Neill as their coach.

The much-travelled former Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke has just joined Donegal in a similar role under Paddy Carr while ex-Sligo and Galway supremo Kevin Walsh has been linked to John Cleary’s management team in Cork.

Although instances of former managers returning in reduced roles in their own county are less plentiful, there are a number of examples nonetheless - and one of them was brought about by Gilroy himself.

Mickey Whelan (Dublin)

An All-Ireland winner with Dublin in 1963, Whelan was always an innovative coaching guru who was never shy of upskilling himself.

After succeeding Pat O’Neill on the back of Dublin’s All-Ireland win in 1995, he entered a seasoned dressing room that was in part resistant to the change that he tried to implement and having failed to emerge from Leinster in 1996 and ‘97, he resigned after a poor start to the subsequent League campaign.

He guided St Vincent’s to an All-Ireland club title in 2008, however, and when Gilroy, who played on that team, was appointed Dublin manager later that year, he immediately appointed Whelan as his coach.

Their first season ended with a humiliating 17-point defeat to Kerry but significant progress was made thereafter, culminating in the breakthrough 2011 All-Ireland final win over the same opposition, after which Whelan stepped aside.

John O’Mahony (Leitrim)

John O'Mahony when Mayo manager in 2010 (©INPHO/James Crombie)

O’Mahony’s achievements in management include masterminding the only two All-Irelands to have crossed the Shannon in the last 56 years, both with Galway, as well as guiding his native Mayo to their first final appearance in 38 years in 1989.

But arguably his standout feat was winning the Connacht Championship with Leitrim in 1994. It remains their only senior provincial success since 1927.

When two players from that team, Brendan Guckian and Seamus Quinn, were forming a management team for Leitrim in 2016, O’Mahony was brought on board as an advisor/selector, with the Ballaghadereen man having been out of inter-county management since his second spell with Mayo ended in 2010.

Leitrim were working from a much lower base than his previous involvement, however, and Guckian stepped down after two years in charge.

Stephen Rochford (Mayo)

Stephen Rochford during his stint as Mayo manager (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Perhaps the path taken by the likes of Rochford and others makes a Gilroy return in a role other than that of manager more palatable.

Having come closer than anybody to guiding Mayo to the All-Ireland that has eluded them since 1951, losing to Dublin by a single point in the 2016 (after a replay) and ‘17 finals, Rochford stood down after the 2018 Championship and was immediately snapped up by Donegal manager Declan Bonner as a coach.

After that arrangement came to an end this year, he was linked with a return to the Mayo job vacacted by James Horan but the acquisition of Rochford by Kevin McStay to his heavyweight management team was a critical move in a drawn out appointment process and probably swung decisively it in McStay’s favour.

Officially, Rochford’s title is assistant manager and coach and, with Donie Buckley, Liam McHale and Damien Mulligan also on board, there is even greater anticipation than normal surrounding Mayo’s fortunes as the 2023 season slowly comes into view.

Donal O’Grady (Cork)

Cork manager Donal O'Grady celebrates Cork's 2004 All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

Having retired at just 30 in the aftermath of his only All-Ireland win as a player with Cork in 1984, O’Grady was a selector two years later when they regained the Liam MacCarthy Cup, though it was quite some time after that before he became manager.

His eventual appointment in late 2002 came amid a period of great acrimony in Cork hurling as the first players’ strike had just been resolved though O’Grady cut through all of that and set about modernising Cork’s play as he implemented what was then a ground-breaking possession-based game.

They lost the 2003 All-Ireland final to Kilkenny but flipped that result the following year and then, just as he had as a player 20 years earlier, O’Grady stepped back to be replaced by John Allen.

After much punditry work and two brief stints in charge of Limerick, O’Grady was absorbed into Kieran Kingston’s Cork management team in an analysis and coaching role ahead of the 2021 season, which saw Cork reach their first All-Ireland final in eight years, losing to Limerick.

He departed with the rest of the management team after Kingston stood down last July.

Johnny Culloty (Kerry)

Johnny Culloty (©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan)

Culloty enjoyed a hugely successful playing career with Kerry, winning five All-Irelands, including captaining them to the 1969 success, while he also had the rare distinction of winning Celtic Crosses as both a goalkeeper and an outfield player.

After retiring in 1971, he went straight into management and guided Kerry to the 1972 All-Ireland final, where they were well beaten by holders Offaly after a replay.

Kerry won three League titles in succession under Culloty from 1972-74 (he was still playing when the four-in-a-row run started in 1971) but the team was in transition as Cork re-emerged in Munster, beating them in 1973 and ‘74, leading to his stepping down. His replacement was one Mick O’Dwyer.

The Legion man wasn’t done with the Kerry senior team yet, though it would be close to 30 years before he returned as Jack O’Connor recruited him as a selector in his first coming as Kingdom boss in late 2003. Together with Ger O’Keeffe and Pat Flanagan, they formed the brains trust that delivered All-Ireland titles in 2004 and ‘06.


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