Jim Gavin ‘absolutely delighted’ with league title win
Manager’s Dublin team overcame an undaunted Galway to secure Division One trophy
Dublin manager Jim Gavin at the Allianz Football League Division One final in Croke Park. Photograph: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane
If the weather was unusually chilly for April, the fact of Jim Gavin welcoming another – the fifth in his six years in charge – New Ireland trophy for the Allianz Football League was a far more familiar rite of spring.
It had been tight, and for the final quarter they had to compete with 14 men against an undaunted Galway, in a way that made victory all the more satisfying.
“Absolutely delighted with that win,” he said. “Delighted for the players first and foremost. They’re an amazing group of Dublin footballers – to have determination, drive and ambition, particularly after their phenomenal achievements last year.
“And to turn up this year with two weeks’ preparation for the National League, get themselves into a final and find themselves in a real dogfight with 25 minutes to go on the clock and a man down, into the wind, against a phenomenal Galway team with fantastic forwards. To still produce what they did is remarkable. Myself and the backroom team are just very privileged to work with these players, we really are.”
Every year of Gavin’s management, Dublin have reached the final, but what he has looked for from each campaign hasn’t necessarily been the same. As the original core panel gets older and injuries become more of a factor, the need to identify new talent becomes more urgent.
Half of the side that finished Sunday’s final weren’t mapped when the first title was won in 2013.
“I think every year we’re conscious that there’s a group of players that play good football that are coming out of the underage system and are pushing hard. It’s about trying to get the opportunities to give them game time. We don’t hand jerseys out, they have to earn it, and those players earned the right to represent Dublin in that game today.
“There’s a whole host of other players that, unfortunately for them, didn’t get game time today and they’ll be disappointed. But I know that today’s victory will mean a lot to them, and when they go back to the clubs they’ll know that they have a chance if they perform well with the clubs. That will certainly get our attention.”
To the surprise of many, current Young Footballer of the Year Con O’Callaghan made his first appearance of the season as a second-half replacement, despite having been occupied winning yet another All-Ireland – his fourth in little over 12 months – as his club Cuala retained the club hurling championship just eight days previously.
Was Gavin surprised? “No, we just had a conversation. If a player is that fortunate to have his club in a club campaign – I know Cuala have got two on the spin but they’re unique occasions – you just back off, and there was no conversation at all over the last number of weeks; we just let him concentrate fully with his club. We just touched base with him earlier in the week and had a chat.”
Relaxed in defeat
Galway manager Kevin Walsh was fairly relaxed about the outcome, an indication that after a fairly unexpected unbeaten run through the regulation league and a creditable display against the All-Ireland champions he had already got plenty from the campaign.
“Disappointed with the result, but taking everything into account it was a great learning curve for the team. It was important we were there coming up the stretch. A bit disappointed to give away a few late points but it was good for us overall. I think five of those lads didn’t kick a championship ball yet so it was important for us to see how they would react at headquarters.
“Happy enough performance-wise – a few things in there we’ll have to improve on. You see lots of games where 14 beat 15, especially against a team like Dublin. They’re All-Ireland champions for a reason and they showed it again today.
“They are really, really good at ball retention. That’s a lesson we’d be hoping to learn from them going forward into the championship.”
Like Gavin, he now prepares for the senior football championship; unlike Gavin he has a serious match in a few weeks, against All-Ireland finalists Mayo.
“We started out the year to try and stay in Division One for next year, for learning again for the guys next year, but it went very well. The fact that we got this [far], of course it can only stand you in good stead going into the championship.”