Jim Gavin defends Dublin fixtures being played at Croke Park

‘We’ll play and we’ve always played where we’re told to play,’ says Dublin manager

To the phoney war. The lull in proceedings. No better time for the Leinster championship launch to be held at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

Jim Gavin politely deals with the annual cries for Dublin to be forced out of Croke Park. How it is unfair. How sending them to a province ground would be punishment for the county that has won nine of the last 10 Leinster titles.

All this despite the financial reality of that ever happening looking highly unlikely. A simple case of supply and demand. Not many provincial grounds could cater for the number of Dublin supporters that would travel.

“From the Dublin football team’s perspective, we’ll play and we’ve always played where we’re told to play,” said Gavin in full diplomatic mode. “And there may be a bit more of an advantage for a team, too, that gets to spend a little bit more time together on the day – they get a chance to talk and to see how players are feeling rather than just meeting and going to Croke Park.”

Nor does he believe the sport is on its last legs.

“A lot of people referred to the Dublin-Derry game, but from a coaching perspective it was intriguing to be involved in. At the end of that game we won by double scores and we tried a lot of new things out. They played a very, very solid game, similar to Tyrone. I think that’s the evolution of the game and it was fascinating to be involved in the centre of it.”

Lingering worry

From a Dublin supporter’s viewpoint the worry of what transpired against Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final last August will linger until they repeat the All-Ireland success of 2013.

The concern is adaptability to defensive structures but, in reality, until Ryan McHugh’s goal just before half-time, Dublin had threatened to pulverise the Ulster champions.

“I think we’ve always been adaptable. Last year, on the day, we were beaten by the better team in the championship but we’ve always tried to play an adaptable type of game, depending on what type of game teams will employ against us.

“But as I said, most of our focus in all of our sessions goes on the way we like to play the game of football and sometimes you can play that expansive type of game and sometimes you can’t.

“If you can’t you just need to have different systems and plans in place and to that end I feel the national league was very fruitful for us.”

A third division one title in succession followed. Feel any sense of history leading Dublin to three in a row?

“No,” Gavin replied matter-of-factly. “It’s for the players themselves. It’s something they’ll look back on at the end of their careers, that they’ve won three national leagues. It is a great achievement for them.

‘Strong position’

“From the management perspective, it’s our job to get the players to be the best they can be on any given day. If they can get that then they put themselves in a strong position to compete for trophies.

“We’ve been inconsistent in the league. They know it and I know it so we’ve a lot of work to do to try and get that consistency from the start, in our opening round against Offaly or Longford.

“It’s winner-takes-all. The Leinster championship means a lot to Dublin and we want to retain the Delaney Cup. That’s our ambition this year.”

It used to feel like a far greater achievement when Meath were a footballing superpower. There are signs of revival but not to the extent where anyone expects them or any other county to deny Dublin a 54th provincial coronation.

Meath, seeking their 22nd, can meet them in the final.

“Micko [O’DOWD)]is always striving for like that extra step each year,” said captain Donal Keoghan. “It’s a three-year process that he outlined at the start of it. We are two and half years into that now, just missed out on promotion two years in a row, but it can be seen as a progression in the right direction.”

How will this three-year cycle be considered a success?

“We would have to have medals around the neck. We are going to have to really target Leinster this year. That’s our main target for sure.”

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