Jim Gavin has high praise for Wexford

Dublin football manager lets nothing out of the bag ahead of Leinster semi-final

Wexford centre half back Brian Malone is “well able to defend and has very commanding presence but well able to attack as well”, according to Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

Wexford centre half back Brian Malone is “well able to defend and has very commanding presence but well able to attack as well”, according to Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 01:00

As any recently released Leaving Cert prisoner can tell you, the trick to a successful Irish oral exam is to memorise your answers. Wait for a trigger word then reel off your flawlessly prepared response in a trance-like state.

For Jim Gavin, at Dublin’s media briefing 10 days ahead of the Leinster semi-final, the trigger word was “Wexford”.

Not even the alarm clock on a recording smart phone could break his stride as he fell just short of last year’s record, when naming a ridiculous 20 Cork players in a lavishly complimentary review of approaching opponents.

This time he stalled at 16 Wexford footballers and their manager Aidan O’Brien.

That, along with news of Bernard Brogan’s healed hamstring and Ger Brennan’s stalled return due to ankle surgery, was on yesterday’s breakfast menu. “The ankle injury is coming off the back of the St Vincent’s campaign,” said Gavin. “He managed that well but maybe came back a bit too soon. The last time he kicked a football was six weeks ago. He is working hard with the medical team and please God he will be back soon.”

Gavin cleverly linked Brennan’s unavailability – he could feature in the provincial final on July 20th – so far this year to the club-versus-county debate.

Merit

“I’ve said in the past that the NFL starts too early and finishes too soon. There would be merit in having the club championship finish in the same calendar year and the national football league starting later in the spring so all the third level competitions and under-21s could be over and done with. Those players who play under-21 and Sigerson would get a fair go at the senior competition.”

A well made point but nothing new.

Always non-committal when offered a question about anything other than the present challenge, the five debutants Éamonn Fitzmaurice was forced to name, as Kerry’s regeneration process evolves in Ennis on Sunday, was politely dismissed.

Gone are the greats: Tomás Ó Sé is now a pundit; Paul Galvin is embracing Dublin’s hipster scene; Eoin Brosnan passed into shadow, where he is temporarily joined by Colm Cooper, Kieran Donaghy and James O’Donoghue.

Discuss?

“I am answering this a little bit blind but from playing them during the national league, it was a very competitive game, could have gone either way. They’ve had good footballers . . . very good club structure down in Kerry and we saw some very good players in the national league but it would be unfair on me to comment on a team I haven’t really seen yet.”

Disingenuous

The inevitable question about Wexford chews up the press conference with a level of praise that feels disingenuous.

“Yeah, they set up very well. Aidan O’Brien would have a good sense of what’s down there. He’s a good record with Good Counsel, colleges level, under-21. In ’09 he got a team to the Leinster final. He’s won a few championships with clubs down in Wexford.”

He then launches into a player-by-player stream of compliments starting with goalkeeper Shane Roche into the “very solid” full-back line of “tenacious” corner backs Robert Tierney and Conor Carthy, while captain Graeme Molloy is a “bedrock”.

The “penetrating runs” of wing backs Michael Furlong and Adrian Flynn “can hurt teams”. Centre half back Brian Malone is “well able to defend and has very commanding presence but well able to attack as well. He sets up a lot of scores for them.

“Midfield they do look very, very strong. Very athletic, very mobile, very physical – Paddy Byrne and Daithi Waters. Waters has dominated most of the games he has played . . .

“And then their front six . . .” Nobody claimed ownership of the alarm that shrills on a mobile phone but Gavin was quickly back in stride: “Let me finish off the forwards . . . very intelligent players, always liked the brand of football they play.”

PJ Banville, James Holmes, Kevin O’Grady, Michael O’Regan, Robert Dempsey and particularly Ben Brosnan are “able to hurt any team . . . well able to assist the defence, score and set up scores.”

There is a special mention reserved for Ciarán Lyng.

Perfect answer, full marks without revealing any insight into the internal workings of the Dublin camp.

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