Jim Gavin concedes Kerry already have headstart on homework front

Dublin manager believes his side will learn a lot about themselves from two matches against Mayo

At least that ends the debate about not being tested. Practically everything about this Dublin football team was tested in the two games it took to beat Mayo. And their seven-point winning margin certainly suggests everything passed.

Now comes the ultimate test: All-Ireland champions Kerry. With just two weeks to prepare for that, Dublin manager Jim Gavin conceded Kerry already have a head start, at least in terms of doing their homework.

“Yeah, we’ve a bit of catching up to do,” said Gavin. “I know their management team were here for the Leinster final, the league final, our last two games, so they’ve got a good look at us.

“But they’re a team full of stars, not only on the starting 15, but on the bench as well. And there’s an expectation they are going to win it back-to-back. So it’s all uphill for us.”

That was Gavin at his natural pleasantry: it was a little different when asked about why Dublin put the GAA’s disciplinary process to the ultimate test, and how it failed miserably. Because the backdrop to this game, and no small part in it too, was Dublin forward Diarmuid Connolly being cleared to play – despite all three levels of the GAA’s disciplinary process finding that Connolly should serve a one-match suspension as a result of the red card shown in the previous weekend’s drawn encounter.

Connolly

Then, in the early hours of Saturday morning, after a hearing before the GAA’s independent arbitration tribunal, the

Disputes Resolution Authority

(DRA), Connolly was cleared to play. “We just engaged in the process,” said Gavin, clearly not warming to the line of questioning. “It’s there for us, and there for any team to use, and that’s what we did. We took advice from the administrators and the Dublin county board, and they supported us all the way. We respect it, and that’s what we did. And I can’t say any more than that.”

And yet despite the late notice of clearance, Gavin had no reluctance starting Connolly, who replaced Alan Brogan on the starting 15: "No," said Gavin, again without expanding. Nor did the Dublin manager believe that Connolly's appeal process was in any way distracting.

“And I’d say of all the county teams, Dublin are quite used to a lot of external stuff going on. So they’re quite accustomed to those external distractions, and are quite good at getting into that performance bubble, and blocking it out. So we actually enjoyed this week, had good fun getting ready for this game, and I think the way they played showed that.”

Gavin was also asked if the GAA’s entire disciplinary process had been undermined by the events of the past week: “Well the process is there, for players, to use it, if they feel they need to use it. I can’t comment any more than that.”

As for the test Mayo presented, Gavin pointed towards Dublin’s character as being one of the differences, compared to last Sunday’s draw: “Yeah, I think the boys showed great heart, and desire, and character. We knew it was going to be a very difficult game, and it transpired that way. But the boys stuck to the process, and we knew if we did that we’d hopefully keep ourselves in a position to get the result.

Class side

“Mayo are a class side, and have demonstrated that for many, many years. We knew they would get opportunities, and get good scores, and it was just a matter of us maintaining our composure, and I thought we did that very well, throughout the game. We got some gaps and thankfully the boys took them.

“There is no doubt that those two games will have stood us in good stead. As a management team, we would have learnt a lot about ourselves in the heat of battle. You just can’t replicate that. We’d have a lot of good takeaways.”

Three takeaways in particular: Philly McMahon scoring 1-2, and Kevin McManamon scoring 1-1; and Paddy Andrews scoring 0-5; that's 2-8 from players Dublin wouldn't have banked on from the start.

“Philly McMahon is a very good player,” said Gavin. “I’ve known him a long time. He was under-21 captain with me, back in 2008, and he’s equally as good going forward as he is in defence, and that’s one of our assets, yes.

“And we’d always encourage our guys to go for it. That is the mantra. I was very pleased that he (McManamon) did take his goal. It’s well within his levels of technical competency to take that shot on.

“And with Paddy Andrews playing so well, the hardest thing we have every week is picking the 26. The hardest part is letting those players know who don’t travel with us.”

Especially when it comes to an All-Ireland final against Kerry.