Jake Malone looking forward to new campaign
By Eoghan Tuohey
Cuala and Dublin’s Jake Malone is relishing the beginning of the new campaign, not least of all given his familiarity with the county’s new chief, and, consequently, the insider knowledge he possesses on what Mattie Kenny can bring to the inter-county table.
Dublin travel to Netwatch Cullen Park this evening for a Bord Na Mona Walsh Cup opener against Carlow under new boss Kenny’s stewardship.
Malone has had a relationship with the county’s new manager, on a club level, for the past five years or so.
“Back in 2013 it was his first year, myself and Con (O’Callaghan) were minor,” Malone recalls. “We were sticking with the minors, we were brought in for the quarter final against Ballyboden.
“We were brought in to wean us in towards the later stages of the championship, we lost that match so the season was over. But, he had brought us in for that with the idea that we'd be training and playing as soon as the minor championship was finished.”
The unexpected departure of Pat Gilroy will undoubtedly have been an unwelcome distraction for the squad, but the prompt installation of such a qualified replacement will fill supporters with optimism as they seek to build on the progress made last year.
Malone is confident that the panel will not be negatively impacted by the recent change in guard, and from a personal point of view, the fact that he has worked with Mattie Kenny at club level recently makes the transition seamless.
“I suppose it makes it easier in a way, it's probably not as scary as when you come in with new management and you have to impress 24/7, have the best training all the time. It's kind of a little bit more comforting knowing that you can ring him if you have an issue, like, last week there I wasn't able to go to one of the trainings because I was working and it's a little bit easier having that conversation. So it is a little bit easier, but in a way I'm not going to be getting any favours in a couple of months down the line either.”
This is the most high-profile role of Kenny’s managerial career to date, but with two All-Ireland senior club championships under his belt from his time with Cuala, his pedigree and talents in the field cannot be questioned.
Con O’Callaghan, Dublin senior footballer and Cuala hurler, has previously said that Kenny was running the club side as though it were an inter-county team. By that token, the switchover, from his perspective, shouldn’t cause too many difficulties.
“100 per cent, yeah (he managed Cuala to the same standard as an inter-county side). Mattie was training us the exact way we were getting trained at inter-county level.
“It was to the highest level of professionalism, we had everything down to a T, we had our analysis done, our training blocks done, every little bit of information that was needed was given to us. So obviously he'll know get the resources available to him to do that at inter-county level as well. It'll be very interesting to see how it goes next year.”
When asked to describe the new manager in one word, Malone pauses thoughtfully for a few seconds, before coming to his preference.
“I'd say obsessive. Everything he does is looking to build on the last training session, or the last meeting, no matter what it is, it's one per cent at every single training.
“You'll have him on the phone after every single session, the Cuala lads will tell you after every training he'll have 10 lads on the phone talking to us about how training went. He's just hurling mad, he'll have us in the best position come league, come championship.”
The 22 year old midfielder/half forward recalled a story which illustrated his word choice for the incoming man in charge involving Kenny organising a cohort of cars to drive behind the team bus on the way to an All-Ireland club semi-final against Slaughtneil, such was his level of preparation.
“That's exactly what I'm talking about. He had backup cars driving half an hour behind, just in case anything did happen. That kind of level of detail is what he brings to the panel. I'd expect much of the same with this year.
“We tried one bus, but that broke down going to a challenge game. So for the Slaughtneil game, we had a different bus and bus driver, because of the one that had broken down the week before.”
Malone offered a quick update on several of his team-mates, both in terms of injury status and potential returns to the squad. Paul Schutte suffered a bad hamstring in club action this year and remains sidelined for the moment, while Donal Burke has made his return following on from an injury last season.
Meanwhile, the status of veteran Conal Keaney remains uncertain as the Ballyboden clubman waits to make a decision on his inter-county future at this time. “Paul's actually still out at the moment. He got a very bad hamstring tear back in the replay, he's out still at the moment, he's still rehabbing, he's 28/29 now so he needs to make sure if he is to come back that he'll be right.
“But at the moment he's just doing his rehab, don't know if he's back with Dublin yet, I'm sure Mattie will have talked to him, I'd say only time will tell, there's no point rushing back in.
“Donal had a bad hamstring injury there last year, he was out for the entire championship. He's back training, he's going well. He'll be putting his hand up for Walsh cup games, starting next Tuesday.
“To be honest I don't know (about Conal Keaney’s inter-county decision), haven't been on to any of the Boden lads at all. I'm sure Mattie rang them, I'm sure they'll know as to when they're coming back and which lads are coming back.
“I'm sure Conal has been taking a couple of days to decide what he wants to do, he's had a very long career so it's completely up to him, if he thinks the body's right, I see no reason why he can't, he was such a huge player for us last year, him getting injured in the Kilkenny game was one of the turning points. It's completely up to him.”
Three out of their four championship games were lost after the 70th minute last season. Lessons will have been learned to ensure the 2019 side regain the ability to see games out to their conclusion, though often, the defeats were down to miniscule margins.
“It might have just been a game management thing, during the matches. We were in a winning position in all three games coming up to the 70th minute. It's disappointing losing those after putting in a good performance on the day, I don't think there's anything massive to be changed, we need to take what we did well in those performances and isolate what we did badly, so that when we are coming into league games, championship games, Walsh cup games, that we know what we did wrong so we can work on those in the future.
"I wouldn't be able to put a finger on it exactly, a lot of small little errors, it's an accumulation of a couple of things during those games, I wouldn't be able to pinpoint one specific thing.”