Enthusiastic Gavin ready to get down to business
It sounds like he’s been counting down the days and new Dublin football manager Jim Gavin gets to stage his first collective training session this Saturday, thanks to the now staggered winter training ban.
In recent years all intercounty teams were prohibited from collective training until January 1st, but under the amended rule, are now able to return in November or December – depending on the date they exited the championship.
For Dublin, it’s this Saturday, even if that required an appeal to their original designated date, having actually played their All-Ireland semi-final on the first Sunday in September.
“The last 60 days have already been quite intense, in terms of preparing for the forthcoming season,” said Gavin, now that time-span in charge, and speaking at Parnell Park at the unveiling of the new Dublin jersey. “It’s been a busy time, speaking to a lot of players, but we really get the show on the road this weekend as we resume collective training.”
Gavin, in fact, has been speaking to some 53 Dublin players, inviting them to play some part in his preliminary panel for 2013. That list includes teenage minor dual star Cormac Costello, who is set to commit to football, and long-serving goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, despite some reports that he was contemplating retirement.
With Tomás Brady also shifting from hurling to football for 2013 (plus former Dublin hurling trainer Martin Kennedy), Gavin seems to be winning the war on dual players, although he insists his relationship with Dublin hurling manager Anthony Daly is sound – even if he hasn’t actually been speaking with Daly face-to-face.
“There’s no tension whatsoever. I’m just delighted that players are playing Gaelic games, be it hurling or football. It all benefits Dublin GAA in the end. So no, the relationship is very good.
“But Cormac, at the moment, will be joining us on Saturday, and is committing solely to the footballers, yes. But it’s very much an open door. Guys will move in and out of the squad so there’s no locked-down figure at the moment.”
Indeed, with Dublin champions Ballymun preparing for a Leinster club final this Saturday, and potentially in action until next St Patrick’s Day, Gavin will be juggling his players for several months yet.
Tomás Quinn and Paul Casey are the only two confirmed retirements from 2012, although others, such as midfielder Eamonn Fennell, haven’t yet been invited back.
The issue of when, or indeed how, the panel will be ultimately cut is therefore ongoing.
“We also have a lot of players that are playing Sigerson, and they’ll be involved with their colleges in the month of January in the O’Byrne Cup, which is a fantastic opportunity for them.”
Gavin also has to contend with some long-term absentees, including 2011 footballer of the year Alan Brogan, who is undergoing groin surgery, while fellow forward Eoghan O’Gara confirmed yesterday that he will undergo hip surgery before Christmas, and won’t be back until late March, or early April. “It’s an injury that’s been there for a couple of seasons so I’ve a chance to finally sort it out as opposed to more temporary treatments on it,” said O’Gara.
What is certain at this stage is Gavin’s keenness to begin collective training, especially considering his reservations about the entire concept of a training ban.
“I don’t think it should be in place,” he said. “I think each manager should view his squad and tailor each programme, manage each player, as an individual rather than as a collective.
“I still would have given players time off. I’m acutely aware of the benefits of managing their fatigue and letting them have some off-time, letting them get some work-sport-life balance.
“That’s the way it needs to be approached. I understand where the GAA have come from, though, but if I had my way, we wouldn’t have a ban on collective training, no. Some players need to work in that off-season as well.
“But the energy has been superb. We’ve been very impressed with the atmosphere and signals we’ve got from the players. They’re a very committed, very ambitious group of men. We look forward to working with them from Saturday.”
Another man Gavin has also been speaking to is former 1995 All-Ireland winning team-mate Dessie Farrell, who took over the role as Dublin Under-21 manager, and whose task is to defend the All-Ireland Under-21 title won by Gavin’s crew earlier this year.
“The priority has to be the under-21 championship. I’ve experienced this in the past. For me, the Dublin Under-21s being successful will certainly support the senior team’s aims.”
Capital change: Dublin launch new jersey
It may be a case of trying to spot the difference from the old one, but a new Dublin jersey will be in all good sports shops from tomorrow – and despite the county footballers failing to defend their All-Ireland title, it’s expected to maintain its position as one of the top-selling jerseys on the market.
The last time Dublin redesigned its jersey was almost three years ago, in January 2010, to coincide with a new agreement with sponsors Vodafone: the 2013 edition, which features more navy colouring, stripes on the sleeve, the traditional collar, plus a “honeycomb” pattern on the sky-blue front, will retail for €60. Dublin typically sell around 40,000 units of the jersey every year, although stronger sales inevitably come with a re-launch, which means some 120,000 units of the old jersey have been sold.