Jim Gavin piloting the course in Dublin’s drive for five
Manager has always been comfortable drawing on comparisons with his other passion
Dublin manager Jim Gavin is fully focused on making it five All-Irelands in a row. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Tray tables stowed, seats in the fully upright position, ready for take-off. Ask anyone who has played under Jim Gavin what sets him apart as Dublin football manager and it’s not long until his piloting skills come up, and his plotting of their latest flight path towards a potential five-in-a-row is no different.
There is no looking beyond the horizon – or in this case Dublin’s Leinster football quarter-final against Louth on Saturday evening. After his two decades with the Air Corps and, now, the Irish Aviation Authority, Gavin has always been comfortable drawing on the comparisons with flying.
That take-off against Louth is no exception: this, after all, is the man whose very first coaching job was with the Defence Forces’ football team, around the same time he started in the Air Corp.
“In the pilot game you are trading off your preparation, for every flight,” said Gavin, speaking at the launch of the Leinster football championship at Baldonnel Aerodrome. “There are no guarantees that you get from your departure airfield to your destination. You’ve planned for it. You’ve trained for it. You’re in the Sim [Simulator] every six months.
“You do all your checks and your processes and procedures. You’re planning to get there but sometimes you need to adapt as the flight evolves. Be it an abnormality or an incident in the aircraft or an emergency. Or it might be routine. There is no particular straightforward path in aviation, that’s for sure.”
Nothing about the last two failed attempts at winning five-in-a-row, the Kilkenny hurlers in 2010, or the Kerry footballers in 1982, will be influencing any of his decisions this summer.
“No, it won’t. What I can influence? Again, in the aviation space, after each flight you’d have a review of it. I was a chief flight instructor for over six years. You’re in the business of creating an environment where student pilots can excel. Your endgame is to get them all to achieve their military pilot wings. They don’t all get there but you do your very best to create that environment and set a very high standard for them to achieve. The product is that you get a top class military pilot by the end of it. There is lots of learning along the way, lots of reviewing. It’s a process driven industry. That has informed me to be very process driven in terms of the performance of sport.
“In terms of the context of this season, one can’t give any guarantees because one just doesn’t know. The only guarantee that I know from working with the players I have is that they are a really honest and hard-working group of men. They try their best in everything they do. That’s both on and off the field. That’s my expectation of them, that they do their best. As it was when I was a chief flight instructor in the military, I expected the cadets and the flight instructors under my command to do their very best.”
Everything about the five-in-a-row, Gavin suggested, has to be taken in context: “If people have their own narrative or context, I can’t control that. All I control is what I’ve been asked to do with the Dublin football team is get them to be their best, in every season. Some seasons we’ve been successful, some we haven’t. So we’ve no business looking beyond our horizon in 25th of May. Whether that’s my aviation history influencing, bearing upon me, I don’t know. All I’m driven towards, and the players will tell you that, is the 25th of May. Let’s see where it takes us.”