Jim Gavin’s emphasis on blending ball work with pace paying off for Dublin
‘They always had pace. We just tried to introduce it with the ball’
Dublin football manager Jim Gavin credited the team’s athletic development coach Martin Kennedy for his work on speed and conditioning. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
He clearly doesn’t believe the hype but one thing Jim Gavin can’t deny is the pace of his players, probably the most lasting image from Sunday’s Leinster semi-final win over Kildare, and likely to be the difference in the final showdown against Meath on Sunday week.
“Well, we have focused on the athletic development of the players, that’s for sure,” said Gavin, speaking at his now customary 8am press conference, and last media engagement ahead of the Meath game.
“But everything has been based around working with the ball. That pace was always there, from my observation of those players, at underage level. They always had pace. We just tried to introduce it with the ball. That’s probably the big difference.”
The Dublin manager also admitted all the speed work and conditioning of his team is down to Martin Kennedy, the man who jumped ship from the Dublin hurlers last year to join up with Gavin.
“Martin is the athletic development coach for the side. That’s the term we use. So he has been heavily integrated into that side of it and has been working with the guys since the start of the year in that regard.”
Gavin raised a smile when reminded of the searing runs of wing back Jack McCaffrey: “Yeah, technically he is very good at soloing the ball. I would agree. He has great pace, both with the ball and without it.”
Breaks the mould
McCaffrey also breaks the mould of the modern footballer, at least in terms of size: last week Kerry forward Colm “Gooch” Cooper spoke out strongly against the way modern football was going, and how a man of his skinny stature wouldn’t make it now as easily as he did when starting out 13 years ago.
“Well, I still think Colm would walk into any intercounty side,” said Gavin. “Certainly from our perspective – from the Dublin optic – we do focus heavily on the skills of the game. And the players work hard at their core skills and it’s one of the key training goals we have for them.
“We have always practised the skills and we have always tried to develop the technical aspect of the players. It’s a skill-based game. It is 80 per cent skill-based and 20 per cent physical. That is the way I look at it anyway.
“Obviously there is a strength and conditioning component to that as well. Each coach will set himself up differently and it is whatever assets he has at his disposal.
“He will condition them differently. So that is probably a question for each individual coach, for the players that they have at their disposal.
“ He might say, ‘I need those players to be a bit more bulked up ... as far as we’re concerned, we try and get that blended approach of athletic development and strength and conditioning as well.”
As for the so-called hype surrounding Dublin’s ominously easy run through Leinster, Gavin wasn’t buying any of it, although he suggested having the Dublin hurlers in their Leinster final has deflected some of the attention, but essentially all counties are victims of hype in some way.
“Sure every county player has pressures on them from a local level. The difference between the Corks and the Dublins is there is probably a more national media presence so whatever is printed in the press is covered nationwide.
“At the core of it all, each county player is under pressure from his local area, his parish, his community, and they have expectations for him as well.”
Still no sign of Alan Brogan returning to the Dublin team, however: “Alan is training away. He’s doing quite well. It’s probably a bit too early to say whether he can feature in the Leinster final.
“No more so than any other players, he needs to perform on the training pitch and if that happens, he comes into contention.”