Dublin manager Jim Gavin faces first test at championship level against Westmeath
Homework is done and the league champions look well primed for their first big test
Jim Gavin says Dublin are ready and primed for their championship test against Westmeath.
Jim Gavin exudes a singularity of focus, a pragmatism that doesn’t allow for sentiment. Tomorrow night Dublin will play their first championship match in his fledgling tenure as manager when they welcome Westmeath to Croke Park. His private thoughts with regard to a landmark occasion personally are not for public consumption.
In some respects he might view them as an irrelevancy or a distraction. When he took over at the start of the season, June 1st was underlined in his diary.
The preamble has been hugely enjoyable and successful based on Dublin’s National League success but that has been parked. The agenda has one item; beating Westmeath.
Gavin’s reference point for team selection is largely rooted in the present. “We’d naturally take the NFL performances into account but the internal games have been quite competitive and that is really the benchmark at the moment.
“Some players have come back into form who might not have had that form during the leagues and that is great to see. There is real cut and trust in the squad sessions and we are basing it really on who is performing well in those internal games. It’s form over the last couple of weeks.
“Obviously we are conscious of performances over the national leagues and the heat of some of those battles so we take a blend approach to it. We are looking for guys who are currently in form and those are the guys who are getting the slots.”
Westmeath’s performances in the league have been duly noted. They will be back among the elite next season and this coupled with Gavin’s first-hand experience of many of their players from his time as Dublin Under-21 manager guarantees respect.
“Yeah, it’s a big test. They’re a Division One team now, a very polished side. They’ve got great determination, great resolve. Probably, you go back to their very first game in the National League, in February, against Louth and they were a good few scores down, a man down, and they rallied hard and won the game.
“It’s been a kind of trend in most of the games, that no matter what way the game ebbs or flows that they always finish strongly. They have a strong spine, Gavin at full-back, Sharry at centre half-back, Duffy and Heslin at midfield and McCormack and the two guys up front, Glennon and Dolan. Throw in the scoring capabilities of Maguire and then Heslin from frees and general play; those names alone mean it’s a very strong side.
“Dublin players are under no illusion about the task they have against them tomorrow evening.”
When it was suggested that the other provincial champions from last season have already laid down a marker in the nature of victories this season in the championship, Gavin pointed out: “Those teams haven’t played a Division One team, which Westmeath are now [apart from Donegal, who beat Tyrone]. That is the big difference and that’s the big challenge for us – we are playing a team that has come through to promotion from Division Two and deservedly so.
“It’s a different dynamic and that’s no disrespect to the other teams that the provincial winners from last year beat earlier on. We are under no illusions about the challenge Westmeath will pose us.”
It sounds like the Dubs are ready and primed.