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Gavin keen to hit back

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Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Barry Cregg/SPORTSFILE

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Barry Cregg/SPORTSFILE

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Barry Cregg/SPORTSFILE

IN the context of the most alluring fixture of this weekend's Allianz football action, it might constitute nothing more than a neat and convenient narrative, but there are nonetheless striking parallels between the current Mayo side and the Dublin team from the mid-'90s of which Jim Gavin was a member.

To recall; in 1992, Dublin were shocked by Donegal in an All-Ireland final they couldn't lose.

In '93, Derry put them out in the semi-final and a year later, in '94, Down anointed them September losers again.

Yet if a sense of disenchantment percolated within the group, just as many will inevitably speculate to its existence in Mayo, it didn't show in '95, when Gavin became a fixture in Pat O'Neill's team and a dozen Sam-less years ended in gruelling victory over Tyrone.

"It's mentally challenging," Gavin surmises of the process of going again and again, encumbered by ever greater degrees of pressure and faced with the fear of losing again.

"When I played I was involved in a squad that kept trying each year and sometimes fell short. That was a mentally strong Dublin unit and a very ambitious bunch of men and eventually we got over the line."

Is the psychological battle then, the key to winning the ultimate war?

"It is, yeah. It's a big mental challenge for all of us, not only the teams who got to the All-Ireland series but the teams who got knocked out of the competition earlier on.

"It's a big challenge for the current Dublin squad but we're completely aware that we need to earn the right to win National League titles or Leinster titles or All-Ireland titles again. Those trophies go back quite soon to Croke Park and it's a level playing field."

Needless to say, Gavin is as au fait with Mayo's exploits as he has been with the activities of Dublin's previous opponents this season.

Impressed

"I have been very impressed with them in the league," he said. "No more than ourselves, they started late but they have had three big wins in the last three games and they look like they are getting a settled side.

"They are putting up big scores, 10-77, in their games so far which might have them as leading scorers in the league. They have introduced new players and up the spine of the team they are very strong," he said, before meticulously espousing the individual virtues of the majority of players within James Horan's squad.

Of his own, there is substance to the theory that Dublin could do with winning tomorrow, just so as to ensure an extra game and thus, more scope to loosen the stiff limbs and ligaments of the lesser sighted members of his squad this year.

Doubtless, the Brogans – Bernard and Alan – as well as players like Rory O'Carroll, Paul Flynn, Paddy Andrews and Gavin's St Vincent's trio of Diarmuid Connolly, Ger Brennan and now Michael Concarr could do with another big game against one or other of the division's big boys, if only to get the fitness ball rolling on their summer.

If that's true, Gavin nevertheless remains strictly verbatim to a well-thumbed script.

"We planned our schedule on seven games in the league and anything outside of that is a bonus," he insisted. "And if we don't get that we'll have other games either externally or internally. There will be plenty of chances for players to get good competitive game time either externally or internally."

Secure

That Dublin's last-four spot is not yet secure is largely down to a couple of below-par performances against Cork and last time out in Derry.

"On both occasions," Gavin conceded, "on the day, we were beaten by the better team. Both Cork and Derry deserved their wins.

"We're looking at the league as an opportunity to learn and grow. We know that, if we remain static, teams will overtake us. So we try out some new things. Some work, some don't. We try and build on those that work.

"It's a big, big challenge again on Saturday. It's a great opportunity for us to learn about one another in the Dublin squad and try and grow from it.

"The players are up for the challenge ahead. There's a great dynamic in the squad.

"Despite results not going our way, the enthusiasm and energy there is really crackling. They're putting a big, big effort in," he concluded.


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