Jim Gavin: Aidan O’Shea effect won't dilute philosophy

Dublin manager has faith in ability of backs to cope with Mayo attacking threat

When Jim Gavin describes Aidan O'Shea as "the form player in Ireland at the moment", he's not just deftly talking up the opposition. If Dublin are to beat Mayo on Sunday they'll probably need to both shackle and chain O'Shea at the start, then throw away the key.

It’s evitable O’Shea will break loose and score at some stage, yet the Dublin manager won’t be tailoring his tactics any more or less than usual, not when Gavin also identifies a wide Mayo scoring threat.

“A lot of the attention at the moment is on Aidan O’Shea, and rightly so,” says Gavin. “I think he’s the form player in Ireland. Utilising him in the forwards has produced dividends for them. He’s a fine fielder of the ball, very agile on his feet, and knows where the goal is. So he’s a player that very few teams have been able to get a handle on.

"But he's surrounded by some fantastic players too. They have looked very potent going forward, and their structure in midfield now with Tom Parsons and Seamie O'Shea, and Barry Moran, who played a more defensive role the last day. So they look as impressive as ever."

Strengths

Indeed Mayo looked to be getting better in their quarter-final win over Donegal. But Gavin is not getting caught up on Mayo’s strengths, or weaknesses, preferring instead to consider how Dublin can and will handle them.

“Yeah, we’d have confidence in our backs. We play a particular brand of football, and we wouldn’t stray too far from that philosophy. We base our core principles on attacking football and a very traditional style and we won’t stray too far from that.

“But most teams will adapt their strategy according to whatever game they’re playing, certainly at the elite level anyway. Teams are very flexible now and can move and shift from certain concepts and patterns to the next. So I don’t think we’re any different from Mayo, Kerry or Tyrone in that regard.”

Reflecting on the 2013 All-Ireland final meeting, which Dublin won by just a single point, Gavin said: “Two years is a long, long time in football. I think both teams will be a little different than two years ago. That All-Ireland final was certainly tough and Sunday will be no different.”

Gavin is reporting a clean bill of health, bar those with long-term injuries, such as Eoghan O’Gara.

Four-week break

Given the four-week break since their win over Fermanagh and the increasing emphasis on form at training, some changes are expected. Michael Darragh Macauley has already declared his determination to regain a starting place, having missed out the last day.

“There’s great energy and spirit in the squad, and they understand it’s a 26-man game,” says Gavin. “Sometimes the team that finishes is more important than the team that starts. We pick the team on merit and players who are playing well, not only on the weeks leading in but the weeks of training as well.”

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