Final drumbeat build-up may grow louder but Jim Gavin’s values still call the tune
Manager’s core philosophies have guided Dublin through his first year in charge
When he goes through the season and tries to pinpoint the game where he saw things beginning to come together, it’s the draw against Donegal in Ballybofey in April he settles on first.
“There have been a couple of games. The national league game against Donegal was one of those moments where you could see it. We made quite a lot of changes at half-time and mixed it up and there was a great mental strength shown by the team to stick in there against a very passionate crowd.
‘The guys really went for it’
“There were fantastic Donegal supporters and they obviously needed to win that game; we didn’t and there was nothing at stake for the Dublin football team. But we just played the game as we always do and there is an expectation there for us to win every game and the guys really went for it.
“Probably the Leinster final was one of those milestone moments as well. Meath play football like ourselves: open and passionate and really go for it, and it was a great game of football to be involved in.
“They asked serious questions of the team as well and in a very claustrophobic and hostile environment a lot of our debutants really stepped up and showed character.
“I think in the national league final against Tyrone there were serious questions asked by Tyrone of us. Their defensive structure – they clogged up the channels – and guys had to figure it out for themselves. Not us on the sideline. They did that on a good few occasions coming down the stretch. To finish the way they did in a final, that was very pleasing.”
The ace in Gavin’s sleeve all year has been his bench, deployed from behind glass any time trouble has raised its head. From Denis Bastick turning the tide in midfield against Meath to Kevin McManamon’s goal against Kerry to Dean Rock’s dead-eyed reliability every time he’s gone on the pitch, it’s a club in Gavin’s bag that no other manager in the country has been able to use so effectively.
“I wouldn’t expect anything else, having known the guys over the last number of months, the philosophies they have, the values they have and the way they believe football should be played.
“It doesn’t surprise me. They know when they go out on to the pitch, they’re representing their squad and their county. They have a duty of care to the jersey and the squad to put in a big performance. Whether they start or finish on the pitch doesn’t matter to them.”
Which is all very well but it’s no different to what every manager in every sport says about their replacements. And not every manager gets it back in the spades Gavin has this summer.
There doesn’t appear to be any resentment in the Dublin ranks at proven match-winners like McManamon and Rock having to wait their turn. That alone is a signature achievement for a manager in his first year.