Jim Gavin sees room for improvement

Dublin boss pays tribute to side after Leinster final defeat of Meath

Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Diarmuid Connolly celebrate after the Leinster final defeat of Meath at Croke Park. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

To think some Dublin supporters were born into this.

A ninth Leinster football title in a decade – and fourth in succession. Another simply devastating step in their imperial march towards a third All-Ireland title in four years.

Some were born into an era where Dublin don't play Meath, but take them apart, or at least leave them shaking their heads in wonder at how their once close rivals could have possibly pulled so far ahead of them.

To think Dublin only won two Leinster titles in the decade before.

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And to think Dublin manager Jim Gavin was still finding fault in their performance, proclaiming himself "a little bit disappointed, in the end" that Dublin didn't finish as strong as they started.

Good scores

“For patches of that game we strung together some good scores, and the performance out of the defence and midfield was impressive in parts,” said Gavin. “But we’d be a little bit disappointed in the end, because we could probably have closed it out a little bit better.”

Not even the allegation that one of his Dublin players may have bitten his opponent – as claimed by Meath manager Mick O’Dowd – had any impact on Gavin’s emotions, as he simply stated “that’s the first I’m hearing of it” – and left it at that.

Meath, he reckoned, were not as bad as the 3-20 to 1-10 appeared to suggest. Dublin were determined to ensure Meath never got ahead; the best way to ensure that is hit them with 1-6 in the opening 20 minutes – and pull 20 points clear on the hour mark.

“Well I think if you speak to both sets of players there will be a lot of bruised bodies from that encounter,” said Gavin. “But yeah I would probably be a little bit surprise at the margin of the score at the end.

“But we did step it up from the Wexford game, because we had to step it up. We knew the challenge that Meath would pose, had seen how they can get goal chances, so we knew if we didn’t bring an intensity to the game that they would have exploited us in the back line. And I thought our back division played very well, very tight. We shut most of their opportunities down, and then in the second half, when as you saw, we lost a bit of concentration that they did punish us. So again there’s always room for improvement.”

The agenda

Not even Kevin McManamon’s brilliant 1-5 from play was going to be singled out for special praise, as Gavin turned his attention instead to the All-Ireland quarter-final.

“Certainly there was patches of that game where the players set out to play to the game plan and they certainly played it to the best of their ability.

“There are a lot of similarities to 2013, in that the players are driving the agenda, and are continuing to drive the agenda. But we’re going very much into the unknown now in the next few weeks. We’re not sure who we’ll be playing next. So there are no guarantees. What has got them here is their self-sacrifice, and their diligence and their discipline. We need to say very little to them. They’re a very motivated bunch of men.”

For Meath manager Mick O’Dowd there was a sort of stunned resignation that Dublin had simply handed them a football lesson – whatever about the later allegation they might have taken a bite out of one of his player’s fingers.

“We were expecting one of Dublin’s best displays of the summer, which I think they gave, but we were bitterly disappointed with the performance we gave because I don’t think it reflected us properly.

“But look, there’s a gap in terms of that physicality and intensity that you have to be comfortable playing at, as a unit. I think some Meath players gave outstanding displays but as a collective, Dublin had a higher standard.”

Nor was O'Dowd about to blame Meath's defeat on their goal called back on 25 minutes, after Dalton McDonagh had passed off Stephen Bray - his subsequent shot into the net deemed to have passed the point of advantage.

“You obviously wouldn’t say it was the difference, because it wasn’t. But at that moment in the game, if we wanted to withstand the onslaught that would come, it would have been reduced to three points . . .”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics