Gavin pours cold water on talk of cakewalk for Dubs
Published 04/06/2014 | 02:30
It's expected to be a lengthy coronation, this Leinster campaign of Dublin's – and the numbers back that theory up.
Dublin have won eight of the last nine provincial titles, winning 26 of 27 games with an average winning margin of eight points.
Even when Kerry and Tyrone were taking turns at coming up with dastardly cruel ways of ending Dublin's All-Ireland interest, Leinster was their playground.
The only black mark – the 2010 defeat against Meath when they shipped five goals – seems like a wild aberration against that light.
Ahead of Sunday's opener against Laois, Jim Gavin had the big bucket of cold water at the ready, scoffing at suggestions that the eastern province is a foregone conclusion given the Dubs' impressive form and ever broadening options.
"The biggest threat to Dublin this year is Laois, that's how we view it," Dublin boss Gavin countered.
"We have a game against Laois and we don't look beyond that. That is all our focus. I'm a traditionalist and love the provincial competition. It has great gravity in the Dublin set-up. It's a competition we want to win.
"Everything is on the line for us against Laois. We are very passionate in Dublin about what the Leinster competition means to us."
The Dubs are widely expected to dismiss Laois on their way to a fifth trophy in as many competitions across league and championship under Gavin, despite the midlanders almost derailing the Dubs when they were last defending champions.
The 2012 All-Ireland quarter-final went Dublin's way thanks largely to a deflected Michael Darragh Macauley goal but after an indifferent league campaign from Laois the bookmakers think complacency is the Dubs' biggest enemy.
Gavin's men are 1/7 to make it four provincial titles in a row. Perhaps even more stark is that the Royals are next best in the market at 9/1.
"That's gambling, and personally I don't pay particular attention to that. All the trophies have been handed back and they're for everybody to win now.
"Tyrone beating Down put down a big marker as regards their intentions for the year ahead and we have to earn the right to win back those trophies as much as everybody else.
"So for us the biggest threat is Laois and that's it. We're in a competition, the provincial series that we have ambitions to win and Laois are our challenge. There are no guarantees in life, no guarantees in sport."
Dublin's last All-Ireland defence ended at the semi-final stage and Gavin has tasted how difficult it is to defend an All-Ireland title from his own playing days when a new-look Meath rumbled the Dubs in 1996.
It's on that basis that Laois will be given their whole attention this week.
"I experienced it in 1995 and we went to try and retain the title in '96 under Mickey Whelan. It is a big challenge but that's the beauty about the sport, that there are so many good teams out there that can win," said Gavin.
"The challenge to ourselves is to get our own game right and we do most of our focus on getting our game plan right, if we can do that hopefully we'll be in a position to challenge in the coming months.
"Laois are very strong in the middle with John O'Loughlin, who we'd know from playing up in Dublin. He's very strong with (Kevin) Meaney in the middle – they are two big, giant men who can both score and both punish you.
“Colm Begley is in there with James Finn, (Billy) Sheehan on the wing, they've caused a lot of trouble for teams in recent games. It's a pretty formidable midfield unit ... they're quite a dangerous team and as I say, they're our biggest threat now.”
Another comfortable win for Dublin will likely stoke further debate on the future of the provincial system. The Football Review Committee's (FRC) proposals to redistribute certain counties could work, Gavin says, but the four provinces must remain intact in any new proposal.
"I think it has served us very well. The rivalries we have and the passion in the GAA are based on the parish, the community, the county and the province," he said.
"Look at all the provinces in the games gone by and the passion of the supporters the passion of the players and what it means to them. So I'd be loath to get rid of it.
"I think what needs to be addressed is, I suppose, the fixture list and getting consistency in that for club players and for county players."
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