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Dubs boss still hungry for league tilt

ITS name, unknown to most, is the New Ireland Cup.

It's comparatively small and kind of misshapen, like it's been cut out of a larger version of itself, and you've probably seen it sitting quietly beside its more celebrated counterparts, Sam Maguire and the Delaney Cup, somewhere around Dublin's 2013 celebration circuit.

In fact, it was rare – perhaps impossible – to see Sam Maguire pictured with the Dubs without the trophy presented annually to the winners of Division 1 of the Allianz League lying nearby.

"Because we hadn't won it in so long," reasons Jim Gavin, the first manager to manage Dublin to a League title since Pat O'Neill in 1993. "It's a national competition. The primary focus is the Championship, and it continues to be.

"But any competition – Leinster Championship, National League – we're in everything to win. And that's the challenge again for us this year.

"There are no guarantees. But when you win them, the players have earned the right to celebrate with the cups."

Generally though, the league is about priorities. It never seemed to feature particularly high up on, say, 'Pillar' Caffrey's to-do list and in Dublin's first season under Pat Gilroy, apathetic is probably the best description of their attitude towards Gaelic football's so-called 'secondary competition'.

Year two, post-Kerry, Gilroy used it to very specific ends as a succession of experiments, firstly to implement a brand new system of play whilst simultaneously blending in an assortment of young players. All the while, attempting to make gains on football's elite by beating them in the sort of tough, tight scraps their set-up and mentality had first created. Year three, traction gained, they almost won it, gaining momentum with each match but fell back into inconsistency in 2012, post All-Ireland.

Yet Gavin, somehow, managed to keep several balls in the air in his first go. Implement a new style, blood a smattering of youngsters and still win what was widely considered the strongest grouping of teams the league had seen in years.


Partly, he was facilitated by Dublin playing seven of their nine games in Croker ... but still, they picked off the best with an abundance of style. Year two?

"We want to win every competition that we're in, that's the aim," he insists. "It's a big ask for us. The primary focus for us is the Football Championship, the Leinster Championship, then the National League, in that order. Very soon we'll be handing all those trophies back to Croke Park and they know they need to earn the right to win them as much as any other team. There are no guarantees," he added, "and you take that game-by-game approach."

For a team seemingly behind everyone else in their training cycle, two wins from their first two games was highly useful opening to the season, though any sense of momentum has since gone after three weeks of idleness. Now, it's four games in four weeks, though Gavin insists: "There's no issue with that. I would have no issue with playing games every weekend," he added. "There's plenty of time – seven-day or six-day turnarounds is plenty of time for players to recover. And they want to play games. If you ask any player, they're prefer to play a game than have an idle weekend for training."