Thursday 19 October 2017

Sinead Kissane: Gavin living a life less ordinary as he looks to pilot his footballers to yet another summer takeover

'We learned that Gavin possibly became the first manager to succeed in getting ‘The Sunday Game’ analysts to police themselves' Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
'We learned that Gavin possibly became the first manager to succeed in getting ‘The Sunday Game’ analysts to police themselves' Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Two Dubliners and two rather different entrances for their press conferences this week. In downtown Brooklyn on Thursday night, Conor McGregor kept his followers waiting before peacocking in a white polar bear fur coat. In another universe, living a life less ordinary, Jim Gavin slipped into a room almost unnoticed at 7.58am on Wednesday for a 8.0am press conference in the Gibson Hotel.

He supped a cup of tea and then went around shaking hands with journalists and reporters before he started taking questions.

'In downtown Brooklyn on Thursday night, Conor McGregor kept his followers waiting before peacocking in a white polar bear fur coat.' Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports
'In downtown Brooklyn on Thursday night, Conor McGregor kept his followers waiting before peacocking in a white polar bear fur coat.' Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports

It was Gavin's first time doing media since 'that' press conference in Croke Park where he claimed that the comments of 'The Sunday Game' analysts, particularly Pat Spillane, influenced Diarmuid Connolly's 12-week ban and attacked his "good name".

There was no stand-off on Wednesday morning as Gavin did one-on-one TV interviews and also stood by his message/warning from last month: "I hope the lessons have been learned by what I said. But I believe that any time a player has been disrespected, and if Croke Park and the GAA don't step in, you're left with no choice but to step in and try and protect the player."

What lessons have been learned exactly? We learned that Dessie Dolan would probably prefer if a pundit thought about what colour to paint the decking out the back than be fully prepped to go on prime-time TV because, clearly, being prepared equates to being premeditated and we can't be having that kind of lark in 'de G-A-A'.

We learned that Gavin possibly became the first manager to succeed in getting 'The Sunday Game' analysts to police themselves. What an achievement. Gavin must have chuckled to himself watching the boys roast Spillane because if Dolan and Joe Brolly were so aghast at what Spillane said then, why didn't they highlight it as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon when Gavin raised it three weeks later?

They say if you don't like what's being said then change the conversation. We went from Connolly accepting his ban to Gavin using words like "bile" and "malevolence" which were disproportionate to the way Colm O'Rourke and Spillane (yes his line: "you antagonise Diarmuid Connolly, you 'always' get a reaction" was clumsy) dealt with the Connolly incident that it left a vacuum with questions of 'what's really at play here?'.

The spectrum of answers ran from loyalty to control to pop psychology arguments that Gavin was trying to create a siege mentality.

"There's a lot of talk that you're trying to create a siege mentality, what were you hoping to achieve with those comments, Jim?", I asked Gavin this week, with that rusty taste of a bullet in my mouth.

"I'm just trying to protect Diarmuid's good name. I've never traded off any of those dark arts or that negative energy," Gavin replied.

"It's all about playing our positive football and our attacking brand of football. But, to that end, if I have to protect a player in the future again, and if I see fit, I'll have to step in."

For most of his managerial career, Gavin's calling card has not been the way he reacts but the way he doesn't react.

Our self-serving moans in the media about Gavin's pressers being 'all filler, no killer' can be tiresome when his team show a self-expression on the pitch which has made them one of the best football sides ever.

Gavin's uber-calm exterior on the sideline during high-pressure games can be almost unnerving because most of us could not imagine being that cool while being put through the wringer. Maybe a part of us likes to see some expressions of emotion.

Over-the-top infringements aside, it is easy to get a kick out of seeing managers getting pumped as it franks the notion they're not afraid of letting themselves go and don't give a damn who's watching.

But that ain't Gavin's style. "Jim wouldn't do anything for show," was how former Dubs coach Mick Bohan put it this week in the context of comparisons between him and Kildare manager Cian O'Neill ahead of tomorrow's Leinster final.

Even at optimum moments like winning All-Ireland finals, Gavin has largely remained calm and in control which, really, is nobody's idea of celebrating an All -Ireland.

It's not just his job as a commercial pilot which reminds me of that scene from 'Top Gun' when Cougar says to Maverick: "I'm holding on too tight, I've lost the edge." Holding on too tight in Gaelic football has never seemed an issue for Gavin.

But when he reacted the way he did last month, it was hard to escape the question of who exactly was poking the bear here? After Dublin's League final defeat to Kerry in April, Gavin made a beeline for Kerry players after the final to shake their hands and congratulate them on the win. While Fionn Fitzgerald gave his speech from the Hogan Stand, Gavin stood, almost motionless, in front of his players on the pitch and stared right ahead of him. He had the look of man determined to fix this for his team.

In Gavin's first season as Dublin manager a book of short stories called 'Middle Men' was written by an American writer who's also called Jim Gavin. The book, which has been described as a modern-day version of James Joyce's 'Dubliners', is about a group of men who are stuck between achieving their dreams and the harsh reality of life.

The 'New York Times' review of the book said: "Gavin shows us that the real work of a life takes place not when the sale is made but when the salesman goes back home, looks in a half-empty refrigerator and considers his options."

Considering options and doing what needs to be done for his players sounds like the Dublin manager.

"I think you always have to keep evolving. There are so many good teams out there at the moment in the competition at provincial level. We can see a lot of results that might not have been expected so we have to keep evolving," Gavin said this week.

"The teams behind us are gathering pace, if we remain static we'll be over-taken."

The fear of being over-taken might just lead them to taking over again this summer.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport