Gavin braced for 'formidable' challenge
DESPITE the sideshows, Dublin keep rolling on.
Even if Jim McGuinness insisted that last weekend's match in Ballybofey, and his side's consequent relegation, meant next to nothing to Donegal, a draw away to the All-Ireland champions is a good result for Dublin, who for years suffered debilitating travel sickness against the big sides.
That they managed it against the background of a high-profile court appearance for star forward Diarmuid Connolly, the absence of two recent Footballers of the Year (Alan and Bernard Brogan) among others and an ever-rotating team makes the feat all the more impressive.
And yesterday, manager Jim Gavin was adamant that the alleged biting incident won't be a distraction ahead of tomorrow's Allianz NFL semi-final with Mayo. "We've prepared for the game, you know. It's a great opportunity for the guys to be playing Mayo again," said the Dublin boss.
"Mayo really have turned themselves into a very formidable side. Defensively, they are strong and aggressive, they have big men in the middle of the park and up front, who really hurt you if you give them space.
"We saw that when we played them six weeks ago. That game could have gone either way.
"James (Horan) has done a great job with them. They have been one of the most consistent teams over the last number of years. That was reflected in them getting to the National League final and the All-Ireland final last year."
Gavin (pictured above) trimmed his panel in midweek, with Ciaran Reddin, Craig Dias and Paddy Quinn among those let go. Reddin was part of the DIT side that won the Sigerson Cup, while Tyrone-born Quinn, who plays for Na Fianna, was a surprise inclusion in the squad formed in January.
The exclusion of Dias was the biggest surprise. The Kilmacud Crokes man was part of the All-Ireland winning squad of 2011 and he scored a goal when introduced against Kerry in the league.
However, Gavin stressed that his squad remains open-ended.
"It's an open-door policy and the squad will probably never be locked down for the championship," he said.
"I won't be announcing a championship squad because the Dublin championship is programmed to run in parallel this year.
"So we'll be looking at players all the time and we've always said that players who perform, and who perform on the training field early in the week, will fight for the places on a weekly basis."
Bernard Brogan is expected to play, having recovered from a hip injury, but Ciaran Kilkenny is still ruled out by a knee problem.
Regardless of the result against Mayo, Dublin's preparations will take to the challenge game circuit next Saturday – they welcome Galway to the upgraded facilities in Round Towers, Clondalkin.
However, after seeing the first round of the county championship postponed this week due to his side's involvement in the league semi-finals, Gavin is happy for those games to take precedence.