Gavin: Cluxton and Brogan are our standard bearers
Published 13/07/2015 | 02:30
Shortly before Jim Gavin's pre-Leinster final press briefing wrapped up last Thursday, the Dublin manager was asked to comment on Stephen Cluxton's incredible Leinster Championship record.
Cluxton was aiming for an 11th Leinster winners' medal and, in ultimately doing so, the Dubs goalkeeper emulated the provincial haul of Kerry great Pat Spillane.
Gavin wasn't about to tempt fate and discuss that deed until it was officially done, however, and stonewalled: 'Ask me that question at half four on Sunday.'
So, at half four yesterday, shortly after Cluxton had lifted the Delaney Cup himself with an impressive clean sheet to his credit, Gavin was asked the question a second time and duly responded, crediting Alan Brogan too for claiming his 10th provincial medal.
"They're two outstanding Gaelic footballers first and foremost," said Gavin. "They represent where they come from very well, their clubs and their communities. Their achievements are a testament to the hard work that they've put in over the last number of years.
"Two big, big leaders, more important for me off the field. They certainly set the standards. Leading into this game, I was under no illusions of where the Dublin players were at and those players you've mentioned were leading from the front. I'm delighted for them."
Cluxton's form shows no sign of diminishing with the passing of 13 years since his first provincial medal in 2002. In three games so far this summer, he has yet to be beaten for a goal.
In doing so, he has preserved another fine record of Dublin conceding just a single goal to Westmeath in Championship football since 1972.
Cluxton took a swipe in his victory speech at 'pundits and analysts who just think that Dublin just walk through Leinster every year', suggesting Westmeath bucked that trend by battling hard yesterday.
In truth, it was another huge provincial win for Dublin, their eighth by a double-digit margin in the nine games they've played in the Leinster Championship since Gavin took over.
Gavin was diplomatic last Thursday, claiming underdogs Westmeath could easily win and refusing to rise to the bait when a radio reporter retorted 'no they won't'. The former All-Ireland-winning Dublin manager was similarly diplomatic yesterday.
"Championship football, it's all on the day," he maintained when asked if anyone in Leinster will beat Dublin any time soon. "From a Dublin perspective, we take nothing for granted and prepare diligently for every team we play against. This thing comes in cycles, I experienced a downward cycle myself as a player with Dublin. In football, with trends, it will swing the other way soon.
"It's not always going to be that way, that's what I'm saying. We are just glad we got over this Leinster campaign. It's done for us now and we look forward to the next game."
One potential distraction beforehand was the controversy of Davey Byrne's absence due to a broken nose sustained in a challenge match incident with an Armagh player.
"From the Dublin team's perspective, there has been a lot of attention on that, being the media centre of the country," acknowledged Gavin. "The players are very accustomed to different stories being written about the team. It wasn't even mentioned to be honest. He will be available for the next game, he was back in with us during the week."
The injury list for Dublin is encouraging ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final tie on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
"Nickey Devereux will be back next week," outlined Gavin. "Ger (Brennan) is getting there so we hope we will see him around the next game. Other than that, there is some club stuff coming up so guys might pick up some niggles and knocks from that.
"But we won't wrap them in cotton wool, we'll let them get out there and play games with their clubs and see how they get on from that."
As for Dublin's general outlook after a positive provincial campaign, Gavin said: "We've hit our targets, we wanted to win the Leinster title and we have achieved that.
"We have experienced a couple of teams playing against us in the Championship and in the National League with different systems. We are nicely balanced and pretty much injury-free at this juncture, so it's all systems go now for the quarter-final."