Jim Gavin on autopilot as Dublin glide into another All-Ireland final
Dublin manager keen to praise Tyrone and take one game at a time
Jim Gavin prepares to introduce Diarmuid Connolly. Photograph: Inpho/Ryan Byrne
When Dublin win a game on autopilot, then why would Jim Gavin bother switching mode in the immediate aftermath. What could the Dublin manager say anyway about an All-Ireland semi-final that was nothing to do with the journey and all about the destination – and all mapped out and decided, it seemed, well in advance.
So Gavin says nothing at all beyond a few soft compliments about the level of opposition that Tyrone had supposedly presented and the briefest of monologues about what the All-Ireland final will mean in three weeks’ time.
No joy, no emotion, no bother to him.
Mayo, again, the team that took them to a replay last year, now stand in the way of Dublin’s third straight title. In the meantime, the only thing we know for sure after a game like this is that Dublin are better than last year. Mickey Harte said as much – not Jim Gavin.
Such was their dominance, the first and probably only meaningful question for Gavin is how a performance like this will stand up against Mayo.
“I haven’t given any thought to that,” said Gavin, with no apologies. “Our focus this week and for the last number of week was on Tyrone and the challenge that they would bring. To that end we were just focusing on trying to get a performance.
“We played an All-Ireland final last year, and didn’t perform so we’ve a lot of work to do to try to get that performance in three weeks’ time. We haven’t come across Mayo since the league. We’ve been on our own journey, and that’s where our focus has been. But yeah, any time we have played them there has always been a bounce of a ball between us, absolutely.”
This latest journey of a game was over almost as soon as it began – or at least after four minutes and 39 seconds when Con O’Callaghan’s pile-driver of a shot ended up cleanly in the Tyrone net. Harte admitted that was the game-ending score and nothing Gavin could say could deny it. Although he tried his best.
“Not from our perspective, really,” he suggested. “It’s an opportunity that we took. We got some more chances in the second half and weren’t clinical with them and the next day that won’t be good enough.”
O’Callaghan is having some debut season though, is he not? “Yeah, but I think what you see out there on the pitch is what we see in our sessions. He’s been in good form with his club Cuala. He had a good under-21 campaign, but he’ll play his part like the rest of the guys. That’s probably the team’s biggest strength.”
That strength was fully flexed in the last 10 minutes when Eoghan O’Gara came off the bench and scored 1-1 – and after a moment of some mildly amusing confusion, Diarmuid Connolly came on after 69 minutes for O’Callaghan, and not, as some people seemed to suspect, at the moment when Eric Lowndes came on for Paul Mannion.
Yet there was no temptation, said Gavin, nor indeed need to bring Connolly on any sooner, his five or so minutes of game-time giving nothing away about his prospects of starting that final.
“As I’ve said, this set of players, they all want to get game-time. Whether that’s the full 70 minutes or seven minutes at the end. That’s our biggest strength, they all want to play football. There were 10 players today that didn’t get game-time, some of them didn’t travel on the team bus and it’s hardest on them.
“As I mentioned their biggest strength is their desire to represent their clubs in Dublin and to represent Dublin GAA no matter how much time it is.”
Dublin’s impeccable demonstration of the turnover – and some 70 per cent of possession in the first half alone – effectively beat Tyrone at their own game.
“I don’t think we beat Tyrone at their own game,” said Gavin, again doing his best to deny it. “They’re a superbly well managed and coached team and have got some fantastic players. They’ve got a fantastic defensive system. Counter-attack really hard and you could see that any time they got a bit of space they could punish us. We just did our best there today.
“We tried to stay in control for the full expanse of the game. We knew if we gave Tyrone any space they would punish us, which they did at times. It’s a semi-final, they’re there to be one, and we’re in another All-Ireland. But I don’t think any time you play Tyrone it’s comfortable.
“Lots of teams have set up in different guises but quite similar to Tyrone against us in recent years. We enjoy it. We’ve embraced it and we have to play to our best to represent Dublin and that’s what we did today.”
How will the thoughts of a third All-Ireland bear on this team over the coming three weeks?
“Ah, I don’t think so. This team is too focused for that. They are very focused group. Some didn’t travel on the team bus but I know that when we meet up next week that they will be on script and they will do their very best for the team.
“That has been their influence among each other, to just keep pushing each other along. The team selection is outside of their control but they are all playing well, we have a fit and healthy squad and the next three weeks will be interesting.”