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How Pat Gilroy Changed Dublin After 2009 Humiliation Against Kerry

3 August 2009; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy before the game. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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After Dublin were humiliated by Kerry in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, Pat Gilroy - who had just finished his first year as manager - sat down to cull his panel. He was still reeling from the 17-point gut punch.

"I remember writing a list that night saying 'These fellas will never play for Dublin again'," Gilroy told Joe Brolly an Dion Fanning's Free State podcast.

"I think of the list of 11 that I wrote, nine of them have seven All-Ireland medals. It goes to show your clarity of thinking after getting hammered."

When the fixtures for the following year's National League were announced, a trip to Kerry to face the All-Ireland champions was Dublin's first match. Dublin had not beaten Kerry in the Kingdom for more than three decades.

pat gilroy dublin gaa 2009-2010

3 August 2009; Dublin manager Pat Gilroy watches the game alongside Kerry manager Jack O'Connor. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

"I went, 'Ah, Jaysus'. I was depressed enough as it was," said Gilroy.


"I literally didn't leave the house - bar going to work - didn't speak to anyone, none of the panel, none of the management for about four-and-a-half weeks.

"Then I was watching the match saying we'd prepared well but they just did not perform near what they were capable of.

"I decided to go down the sports psychology route and interviewed a load of psychologists. I did 10. One of my selectors gets me to ring this guy who was more of a business consultant, football guy, who had some psychology background.


"I rang him and said, 'What was the problem?' He said, 'Do you want the real answer?' I said, 'Yeah, I've gone through 10 people here and I genuinely want to get the real answer'.

"He says, 'Well, I'm speaking to the problem'. Well, fuck me, I was just like, 'Oh my God. Why have I just rang this fella?' I was just starting to feel a bit better.

"Then I was intrigued. He says to me, 'Well, what do you know about the brain?' He went into some simplistic things that are probably handy to know from a management perspective about how our brains work.


"He described the emotional hijack where people get overstressed and then don't perform to their capability. It's a very simple thing to deal with, but if you don't know it, it's a problem. He was all about fixing the problem by doing certain things in training.

"I embarked on a journey of learning about psychology. I was literally up in his house 18 hours a week. I did enough to have nearly completed a diploma in psychology. I was that obsessed about it. I felt like I had a good handle over that aspect which I didn't have before."

pat gilroy dublin gaa 2009-2010

7 February 2010; Aidan O'Mahony, Kerry, in action against Paul Flynn, left, and Michael McAuley, Dublin. Allianz GAA Football National League, Division 1, Round 1, Kerry v Dublin. Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

That winter, Dublin played Monaghan in a series of challenge games as Gilroy tried out some new players.

"It was always a wet, filthy night in November and December," said Gilroy.


"We had trained hard at that stage. We got them fairly fit for winter time but it was a brand new group of people - Philly McMahon, Eoghan O'Gara.

"We hadn't cut anybody but we trained this new bunch who were the up and comings, and we let the other lads off who had played [in the 2009 championship].

"We had very physical games against Monaghan. At one stage, I remember Seamus McEnaney saying, 'Did you get them all out of prison?' They didn't shy away from anything. Great fellas.


"I remember after the third game a certain goalkeeper came up to me and says, 'Did you have a lobotomy? You're totally different. You're asking us questions and you're getting stuff from us. It's the same messages but you're doing it a different way'.

"I really did change the way I was engaging with them to ensure they understood what we were trying to do. That was the key change."

Dublin trained had that winter. Between December 10th and January 10th, they had 48 training sessions.

From their first four games of the 2010 National League, they picked up four wins, including a two-point victory over Kerry in Killarney. Their final game was in Omagh against Tyrone, a team which relished beating them.

pat gilroy dublin gaa 2009-2010

11 April 2010; The Dublin manager Pat Gilroy is congratulated by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte after the game. Allianz GAA Football National League Division 1 Round 7, Tyrone v Dublin, Healy Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

"If we won that game, we had a chance of qualifying for the final, and if they lost, they were relegated," said Gilroy.

"I think at half-time, we were up by nine points. We had physically really confronted them, and we had a big strong team.

"I think we got three [goals] that day and I remember at half-time saying, 'We can't go out and beat these by 20 points. We changed the structure of the team to see if we could control the game a bit better'.

"It went down to four and the lads score two points, and won by six. That was a big day because it was a big monkey off their back again.

"We went to a great place for our meal - Kelly's. It just happened to be that the Tyrone team were eating there at the same time.

"My logistics guy had booked us in as The Legion of Mary. It was quite bizarre. They were very unhappy, depressed, and shocked when they us arriving into their restaurant. It was the closest, just practical logistics that we went there.

"We couldn't qualify for the league [final], and that was our last game so I said, 'Look, you can have a few cans for the bus on the way back but make sure you walk by them'. They were miserable, had just been relegated, and our lads are walking out with cans of beer!

"I thought I might live to rue that because we got them in the quarter-final that year after going through the qualifiers but we beat them that day as well. That was a big day, a big statement."

See Also: Pat Gilroy Explains Why He Dropped Bernard Brogan From Dublin Team In 2010

pat gilroy bernard brogan dublin 2010



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