Jim Gavin and Dublin take history in their stride
Manager pays tribute to his ‘selfless’ captain Stephen Cluxton
Dublin’s Eric Lowndes takes possession under pressure from Kildare’s Paddy Brophy. Photograph: Inpho/Donall Farmer
You kind of knew that for all the record-breaking history of the occasion that none of us would be telling the grandchildren about the day we attended the media conference after Dublin had won an unprecedented seventh Leinster title in a row and team captain Stephen Cluxton had racked up an 88th championship appearance to equal that record as well.
Maybe it was because the whole outcome had been so expected, even if the precise chain of events mightn’t have been as foreseeable.
Jim Gavin was courteous in his acknowledgement of the achievement but it’s been a long time since a Leinster title caused delirium on the Hill and blaring car horns.
“First, on the historic nature of it, I think when the guys look back on their careers and probably for Pat Gilroy, who came before me, and his group of players that are no longer with us, they’ll take some satisfaction today. But for the current team it’s about being present in 2017 and provincial titles mean a lot to us. We’ll certainly celebrate it tonight with our family and friends, that’s for sure. And then we’ll move on to the next challenge ahead.”
Sunday’s challenge was stillborn, as Dublin’s early goals opened a gap too wide for Kildare to bridge but it will be worth reflecting on the fact that the nine-point lead established by the 18th minute was the same as the final margin of victory.
Conceding 1-17 is also a high point of a less welcome nature, as the manager acknowledged. “Any time you concede that much, not that it’s a concern, it’s something that we’ll have to look at. But to balance that is what we scored at the other end.We’ll set ourselves up depending on whatever way the opposition set themselves up. Some teams that we’ll play won’t be as expansive and expressive as Kildare.
“We’ll need to adjust our tactics and it’s a great challenge for us if they do that and you get a low-scoring game at both ends. Some teams will play open football and you’ll get high scoring.
“I’m sure for the supporters looking in, it was a good, traditional game of Gaelic football with some fantastic defending, great blocks and tackling, high fielding, and some fantastic scores from both ends of the field.
“All in all it was a good, traditional game of football.”
Asked about the display of rookie starting forward Con O’Callaghan, who scored a dozen points, half of them from play, his manager observed not-getting-carried-away protocols.
The former Dublin minor captain won an All-Ireland club hurling medal on St Patrick’s Day and so was adding to his already impressive haul of silverware.
“First thing I would say is he’s part of a team and he played his part today. He comes from a really solid background. His club Cuala have done tremendous work in that part of the county for Gaelic games in the last number of years and Con has been fortunate to be surrounded by some great coaches and great family as well.
“Within Dublin GAA he’s been developed by the development squads and by under-18 and under-21 coaches and managers, so that’s been a big influence on him. He played his part. That’s probably what we see in training as well.”
Gavin was, however, prepared to relax his demeanour in relation to one particular individual achievement – Cluxton’s. His save from Daniel Flynn in the 42nd minute prevented Kildare from halving a six-point deficit.
“I think that’s the word, influence. That’s what good leadership is and that’s what he brings to the football team. He’s selfless, determined and very ambitious. His application and how he works at his game continuously is a great example, not only for the younger players in the squad but for the older members and for the management team as well.”
Of the roll call of the injured, he said that full back Jonny Cooper, who missed the match because of injury, would be available for the All-Ireland quarter-final in three weeks, but that Michael Darragh Macauley and Paul Flynn, while “doing well” weren’t quite as definite.
“Jonny got a knock a few days ago. The good news is that he’s back and training hard. He did a few bits and pieces this morning and again, just a few days too close for him.”
Dublin now head for the quarter-finals where they will face Ulster opposition, one of Monaghan, Down or Armagh. On one hand, the county hasn’t lost a match in the last eight of the All-Ireland since 2009 but on the other – and it’s unlikely Gavin has forgotten this – his only championship defeat in five seasons was against northern opponents, Donegal in 2014.