Jim Gavin promises that Dublin will come back stronger after league loss
Manager praises Kerry as he laments his own side’s carelessness in possession
Jim Gavin congratulates Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice after the game in Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
How strange does that feel?
Not normally the first question asked after a one-point defeat in a league final, after coming within inches of forcing extra-time, but if it felt half as strange to Jim Gavin as it did for us, then that was perfectly justified – especially after Dublin’s first defeat in over two years and after 36 games, and the first time Gavin has ever sat in front of us after losing a league final, the Dublin manager having previously won four from four.
How strange does that feel?
“Eh, for the league?” Gavin asks back. “I’ve not really thought about it that way. Obviously there’s massive disappointment, absolutely. But we played against an excellent Kerry team, fully deserved winner, and we’ll go away, lick our wounds, and come back. Hopefully stronger.”
Equally stone-faced in defeat as in victory, Gavin then teases out some of the turning points of the game – Diarmuid Connolly’s black card on 29 minutes not being one of them (“I didn’t see it,” says Gavin).
What brought Dublin down, he says, was partly their own hand: “Too many unforced errors. Gave the ball away too much. Certainly had enough of it. The third quarter of the game, we kicked an awful lot of the ball away.
“But all credit to Kerry. Their score execution was very good there today. They got some great points and fully deserved the win, so hats off to them.”
Getting back to within a point of Dublin was reassuring, but at the same time not entirely consoling: “We had enough possession. Some great defensive play and we worked the ball up the field, and just turned it over needlessly. Kicked it away, hand-passed it away – very uncharacteristic. But it certainly punished us, and put us in a very tough position going down the stretch, five points down.
“I thought they showed great heart again, great resilience to come back and be within the width of a post to put the game into extra-time, a long-range free from Dean [Rock]. And we had a bit of momentum at that stage, but unfortunately this time a little bit too late.
“But when a lack of a performance happens like that there today, it’s ultimately my responsibility. But the preparations went very well this week, great energy, great focus by the players. We knew, as they always are, Kerry-Dublin games are very demanding and a national final, a cup on the table to be won. So we knew it was going to be a very tense game, which it turned out to be.
“And you couldn’t fault the preparations. Team selection? Absolutely, that’s my responsibility and we’d have to have a look at that – did we start the right players and bring the right players in?
“But we learn from every game that we play. We’ve got eight weeks to go to the championship, the club championships start in a couple of weeks’ time, and we’ll regroup and go hard at it again.
“The boys will always play with ambition, no matter what situation they’re in or whatever way teams set up against them. They always play with an ambitious style of football. They kept going at it, and I can only commend their efforts.”