Tuesday 27 June 2017

All Ireland final: Weight of history against us, claims Gavin, as Dublin boss seeks to avoid hype

Dublin manager Jim Gavin, right, shakes hands with Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice after the final in 2013
Dublin manager Jim Gavin, right, shakes hands with Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice after the final in 2013
Dublin manager Jim Gavin
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Hill 16 will be alive with colour, clamour and confidence as the Dublin hordes bellow their support in Sunday's All-Ireland final.

Those fanatical followers also bring huge expectation that Jim Gavin's team can triumph over the Kingdom and bring the Sam Maguire Cup back to the capital.

Their pre-match considerations will, to some extent, be tempered by respect for Kerry and awareness of the threat they pose to the Dublin ambitions for a third All-Ireland win in five years.

But overall for the fans the main sentiment will be summed up thus: 'Can win, will win, up de Dubs."

Manager Gavin, in the cool manner of the experienced pilot that he is, will leave the excitement and the hype to the fans and the media.

In one sentence he identifies the reality of Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland championship clashes.

"In terms of history, since the '50s, I think Dublin have only beaten Kerry four times in the championship - two games in the '70s, 2011, 2013, so we've a lot of catching up to do," he said.

Of those four victories, two were in finals - 1976 when Kevin Heffernan was in charge, and 2011 on Pat Gilroy's watch, while the others were the epic 1977 semi-final and the 2013 semi-final in Gavin's debut year as a senior manager.

His other point about the Dubs having 'a lot of catching up to do' is also borne out by Kerry's 37 All-Ireland wins compared with Dublin's 24, but the Dublin manager's focus is all on this match.

"We just take one game at a time and if I can get the players playing on a consistent basis against Kerry, and if they can be the best they can be, the county board and myself can't ask any more from them and that's what we'll endeavour to do on Sunday," he said. Once Mayo had been conquered in the semi-final replay, thoughts immediately turned to Kerry in the shortened preparation time for the final, which Gavin does not view as a disadvantage.

"It's not that you wish for replays but it's very challenging for the players and the management team to replicate that intensity in training.

"This time everything is tightened up from the decision-making process to the decisions one makes as a management team.

Kerry's Colm Cooper punches the ball goalwards under pressure from Tyrone players Ronan Mcnabb and Justin McMahon
Kerry's Colm Cooper punches the ball goalwards under pressure from Tyrone players Ronan Mcnabb and Justin McMahon

"All facets of the game are under scrutiny and to get that back to back is fantastic. I think any player around the country just wants to play games and that's where you learn, from playing games, not from training," he said.

The battle of wits and strategies between Gavin's management team and Eamonn Fitzmaurice's think-tank will be fascinating, but all depends on how the players perform.

"We need to be cognisant of the fact that Kerry have a lethal full-forward line and half-forward line that can get goals on the blind side or run at you and score goals, so it's going to be an intriguing game both offensively and defensively.

"They've obviously demonstrated how lethal they are with their seven goals against Kildare in one half.

"We know it's a team full of star players, from (Kieran) Donaghy to Colm Cooper, James O'Donoghue, (Darran) O'Sullivan off the bench, they're all top-class forwards.

" It's not just the starting six that we need to be concerned about, it's the full expanse of their team which seem to have played in every game, or got a run out throughout the championship campaign, so it's a big, big task," said Gavin.

Dublin's forwards are not too shabby either.

Diarmuid Connolly will surely relish going into this game free of all the tension around the disciplinary process which at a late stage freed him up to play against Mayo.

Bernard Brogan is in good form and the Dubs have plenty of attacking options.

Kerry are likely to try and target Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs which are key to Dublin's strategy.

"Certainly it's a challenge but if teams push up there's other areas to exploit," said Gavin.

"If teams sit off, there's areas to exploit so we want to be flexible in how we approach that."

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