Gavin sticking to his attacking philosophy as Dublin steel themselves for Cork challenge
Manager sees no reason to deviate from expansive game plan which has to date proved successful
Meath’s Graham Reilly comes under pressure from Dublin trio Cian O’Sullivan, James McCarthy and Ger Brennan during the recent Leinster football final. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ask Jim Gavin about the Cork team Dublin face tomorrow and after 962 words spoken over five minutes he mentions 20 opposing players, throwing bouquets like “solidity,” “experience,” “warrior,” “pace” and “strength in depth”.
That was question two of yesterday morning’s 35-minute audience with the Dublin manager.
Ask about his own team – which was named last night and remains unchanged from the side that defeated Meath in the Leinster final – and after 34 words spoken over 15 seconds he doesn’t mention a single player.
Everyone breathes deeply and ploughs on.
Cork provided the media an equally guarded, yet jocular Conor Counihan on Monday night along with Graham Canty, Michael Shields and Aidan Walsh.
Dublin players can be readily interviewed via public relations companies so long as their boot or car sponsors are promoted.
Not that Gavin’s 8am press conference should be sneered at. He got himself into the “zone” and devoured every topic on offer.
The pity is we were shadow boxing in the dark – the team wasn’t released for another 13 hours – but he did defend star forward Bernard Brogan, Cian O’Sullivan’s ability as a midfielder, referees and Stephen Cluxton’s long trips up to take frees (he “jogs”).
Most of all he defended his footballing philosophy.
“I think one of the strengths of the Dublin team this year has been their resolve to stick with the game plan, and to never quit and to be patient and composed. That’s been a big trait of them and let’s hope that will continue on Saturday.”
In yesterday’s Irish Times one former manager (Jack O’Connor ) and three current intercounty managers (Brian McIver, Alan Mulholland and Justin McNulty) were asked if they believe Dublin can win the All-Ireland playing the pacy, attacking style they have employed since Gavin took over from Pat Gilroy late last year.
The Galway manager, Mulholland, said they absolutely can but the two Ulster men and O’Connor are not convinced.
Nobody is questioning the enormously talented attacking options at Gavin’s disposal but flaws in the system were exposed by Meath in the Leinster final.
Gilroy won an All-Ireland in 2011 using a counter-attacking, ultra-defensive system. Jim McGuinness and Donegal produced a more advanced version of that format last year.
Gavin is swimming against the current tide of successful football teams and despite the warning signs, the man is not for turning. After all, they beat Meath pulling up.
“Defensively we have a good bit of work to do,” said Gavin. “And the forwards, in terms of taking the opportunities that we created.
“We’re not going to change dramatically from our tactics and the way we’ve played heretofore. It has served us well and we don’t see any reason to change. Possibly we need to put more pressure on the ball when kicked in so we don’t put our full back line under as much pressure as it was the last day.
“But that was only for periods of the game and the game ebbs and flows, and over the expanse of the 70 minutes we finished with a seven-point win which against Meath in any game is satisfying.”
There follows a probing follow-up question: there are two views on this, some say you are the saviours of Gaelic football due to the attacking brand Dublin are playing while others see it as naïve and that you will be found out by better teams than Kildare and Meath? What do you think of all that, Jim?
“I hadn’t seen those bouquets being thrown at us. We just focus on our own game. In terms of the way we play football we’re trying to play open, expansive, creative football, the way we believe it should be played.
“We take very much a skill-based approach to the game, be that in our kick-passing; we look heavily at our defensive duties and our tackling as one of the technical skills that we’ve worked hard on, and we’ve always preached to the players the mantra of tackling the ball.
“We’d hope that people would see that our skill-based approach to the game is reflected in the way we play.”
That’s it. Dublin will live or die playing the Gavin way. To hell with the cynics.
Of course, only those who actually claim the Sam Maguire can justifiably say that.
DUBLIN (SFC v Cork): S Cluxton; K O’Brien, R O’Carroll, J Cooper; J McCarthy, G Brennan, J McCaffrey; MD MacAuley, C O’Sullivan; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, D Connolly; P Mannion, E O’Gara, B Brogan.