Jim Gavin fully focused on Monaghan challenge

Return of Macauley, Flynn and Cooper strengthens Dublin manager’s hand

Seems unlikely that Jim Gavin got tangled up in the euphoria of Dublin revisiting The Joshua Tree.

“It is what it is and the six teams that will be involved in the hurling and football there over the weekend will just have to deal with it,” said the Dublin manager when concerns over the pitch were mentioned at yesterday morning’s gathering at the Gibson hotel.

"You'd hope that Croke Park will reflect on it.

“Both teams have to deal with it,” Gavin elaborated on the potentially slippery surface. “I just think they have to have a look at the schedule. It’s a stadium built for Gaelic games, first and foremost. That has to be the priority.”


To the suggestion that concerts be moved away from summer months, the 46- year-old pilot added: “That’s for Croke Park to reflect on, to impart management and leadership within the GAA to say what’s right for the games.”

That’s all that matters to Gavin and his elite Dublin brigade. The games and Dublin’s continued dominance of football. Maybe the secret to these city footballers unending success is as simple as what he tells us.

Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley are seemingly ready to return against Monaghan on Saturday evening despite neither donning the jersey since the league final defeat to Kerry in April.

Diarmuid Connolly is still suspended but in the Leinster final dismissal of Kildare the attack hardly missed a beat due to Con O'Callaghan's stunningly effective 0-12 (six from play). Johnny Cooper is also primed to shore up a full back line that was exposed the last day.

But Gavin doesn’t see multi-decorated All Stars. No outfield player has a divine right to start, despite Dean Rock’s free-taking, or the presence of the benched former footballers of the year, no one.

“It is always in the past what players have done, it’s over,” is Gavin’s abiding attitude. “All I’m interested in is what players are producing and how they’re performing in the present because that’s all we can judge.

Present form

“Nobody can dictate what way the game is going. You have to plan, both teams will have plans, but how players will perform, you just don’t know. So from a management perspective all you can go with is present form. I think if you look back at previous form, it’s a dangerous game, we don’t entertain that.”

Bernard Brogan is 33, only younger than the record-breaking Stephen Cluxton who at 35 will notch up his 89th championship outing to surpass the Ó Sé men, Tomás and Marc, but it is Brogan in the clearest tussle with time.

The four-time All Star is not going quietly. When Rock was black-carded against Kildare, Brogan came off the bench to deliver 0-5. That also allowed O’Callaghan take over free-kicking duty and kick the lights out.

“Bernard has shown great leadership this year both on and off the field,” said Gavin. “He’s a real leader now in that dressing room by his actions and application. In the practice sessions and meetings we have he’s a great contributor and whenever he talks players will always listen.

“I think the point he proved to everybody is how much of a team player he is by his actions on the field of play. That’s what we see in the training sessions, his application and that form. Thankfully we are seeing that on a consistent basis in training and that’s good for Dublin football.”

Despite an increasingly busy life as Commercial Director with Legacy, Brogan is moving like a forward entering his prime rather than the end of a stellar career.

“He’s very sharp, he hasn’t missed a session in many months,” Gavin noted. “He’s got a busy professional career outside and the demands on all inter-county players are immense. He’s been really diligent and committed to the cause this year and the product of that is the form that we saw the last day. It’s a big challenge again on Saturday for him.”

Cormac Costello, the impact sub who ripped the All-Ireland final away from Mayo last year, is ruled out by an ankle problem so Brogan is almost certain to feature.

“It’s all about the sum of its parts,” Gavin continued. “A lot of players are putting their hands up to be involved in the match-day squad. That’s great to see. They have always been about the collective and that’s what they’re about now.”

Don’t presume Monaghan were ignored during yesterday’s briefing. The longest answer of all had Gavin name checking six Farney men while pouring praise all over the latest opposition seeking to end a three-year unbeaten streak in championship.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent