Gavin won't be rushed into any snap decisions
For once it seems there is a generally positive consensus regarding a new championship structure, even if only the new round-robin format to the O’Byrne Cup. Although hardly radical, it proved relatively seamless and largely beneficial to all 16 competing teams.
After the three games in eight days, Dublin came through to join Louth, plus Offaly and Kildare, in this Sunday’s semi-finals, and for manager Jim Gavin that’s the easy part out of the way. Now begins the hard part – trimming his panel ahead of next month’s Allianz Football League, while staying competitive enough to challenge for outright honours.
Sunday’s four-point defeat to Wicklow in Parnell Park wasn’t exactly what Gavin wanted, but he admits that sometimes you learn more from defeat than victory, particularly when determining the full potential of so-called fringe players.
“We’re not going to use the guillotine based on one particular performance,” he says. “Most of the guys have got opportunities in the last few games, and again we’ll use a blended approach in the next game .
“But it’s the O’Byrne Cup. We’re talking about the third week in January, so there’s a long way to go till the end of the season, and it’s a chance for me to see players, and for players to show their potential.”
Gavin is also aware that some players try too hard to impress at this stage of the season.
“We spoke about that, how guys can go out there and express themselves. We give them a framework to play, but within that framework they need to express themselves as footballers. Every time you put on a Dublin jersey there’s pressure, because you’re expected to perform.”
It will still be several more weeks before Gavin settles on a panel, partly because of the involvement of Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams in the All-Ireland club championship, and he won’t be rushing Ciarán Kilkenny onto his panel either.
He’s escaped relatively unscathed on the injury front, too: Michael Dara Macauley picked up a dead leg in the opening game against Carlow but should be back for this Sunday, and likewise Cian O’Sullivan, who picked up a hamstring injury against DCU last Sunday.
As for the pending cull of players, Gavin did use three goalkeepers in his opening three games – Stephen Cluxton, Shane Supple, and Vincent Whelan (from the St Maurs club, in Rush) – but he will be dropping one for the league, with Whelan likely to be the one to miss out.
Gavin has also declared his hopes for Kilkenny, who, it seems, will be focusing on football for the foreseeable future.While Gavin won’t be rushing him, the intention is that he will feature for Dublin at some stage during the league.
Gavin admits too it was “a very courageous decision” for Kilkenny to turn his back on the AFL, but that it was a little too soon to say he might yet regret it, or might even look again at what Australia has to offer further down the road.
“That I can’t answer,” he says. “Ciarán is the only guy that can answer that but from talking to him, he’s very passionate about Gaelic games, a very humble guy, and knows what he wants. Over-training is probably the issue for him now, and that he controls it, that managers don’t abuse him as a football player, place too much demands on him.
“But no more than any player, he needs to get back into the system. We’re picking players on performances and he needs to get the chance to put those performances in. He knows there are no guarantees in sport.”
Dublin are away to Louth for this Sunday’s semi-final (Drogheda, 2.0), the winners there having home advantage for the final on Sunday week. Offaly host Kildare in the other semi-final (Tullamore, 2.0).