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Gavin: We have to finish our goals

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Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, shoots past Gary Connaughton and John Gaffey, Westmeath. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, shoots past Gary Connaughton and John Gaffey, Westmeath. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Jim Gavin, Dublin manager, right, exchanges a hand shake with Pat Flanagan, Westmeath manager. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Jim Gavin, Dublin manager, right, exchanges a hand shake with Pat Flanagan, Westmeath manager. Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

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Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, shoots past Gary Connaughton and John Gaffey, Westmeath. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

IT is customary on the occasion of a championship romp for one side to bemoan the disparity in class and call for systematic change as though such annihilations are new inventions in the GAA. In that regard at least, Saturday evening in Croke Park failed to disappoint.

IT is customary on the occasion of a championship romp for one side to bemoan the disparity in class and call for systematic change as though such annihilations are new inventions in the GAA. In that regard at least, Saturday evening in Croke Park failed to disappoint.

Similarly, it is part of a long and well-worn tradition for the winning party to reflect that the gaping, yawning chasm on the scoreboard was some aberration of mathematics and that, in reality, the exchanges were really quite competitive.

"I don't think the final score reflected the intensity that Westmeath brought to the game," said Jim Gavin, sticking to a dog-eared script on his managerial debut in the championship.

Structured

"In the first half they were very structured and we found it hard to break them down, so I certainly didn't see that (would be the) scoreline anyway."

His opposite number, Pat Flanagan, meanwhile, reached for the nuclear button in his assessment of what had just painfully transpired.

"Personally, I'm really getting worried about the gulf that's starting to develop. There seems to be a huge gulf developing between Division 1 and 2 teams.

"We played Carlow a couple of weeks ago and I saw the dejection on the faces of the Carlow boys and I see it in there today.

"Maybe we should start revisiting how the championship is run.

"Had we won that game today, we'd have had to play Kildare in the next game and so on.

"Maybe we should start having a look at maybe two championships running simultaneously. You need to get players competing or they're going to go away," he warned, citing recent examples in Laois and Galway of how heavy provincial losses can affect morale.

"In the times we're in, it's going to be extremely difficult. You might get one team to possibly break through. That's what I mean about the championships.

"I would imagine if the provincial championship was set up with four groups of eight, it would give teams a better opportunity. Possibly go a Champions League-like scenario where top-four teams go to semi-finals.

"You could still have your provincial championship finals. It would give the other teams something to play for, because if you don't have something to play for, you've nothing."

Gavin, as it happened, had his own axe to grind with the championship format, but not in the same sense as Flanagan.

Dublin and Kildare will collide in the Leinster semi-final in four weeks' time, yet it is just a further two weeks from that match until the provincial decider.

Gavin was both perplexed as to why such a gap exits and concerned by its momentum-sapping forces.

"It is way too long," he insisted. "I'll be sending players back for two rounds of the adult football leagues with the clubs so it's way too long. I can't speak for the fixture list, that's a Leinster Council issue, but even for the supporters and even for Westmeath, I don't know when they go back in the pot. Certainly for teams that win, four weeks is way too long."

Such a margin of victory has, in the past, put a glossy coat on Dublin's shortcomings. But, on Saturday, Gavin gave a host of players their first starts or first championship appearances on a day when no player in blue struggled.

Milestone

"It is good," added Gavin. "They are all obviously used to playing in the Dublin jersey, but to experience Croke Park on championship day is a big milestone in their careers and it is good now that that is out of the way and we can move on."

The reinvention of Paddy Andrews, meanwhile, continues apace. He kicked 1-3 on Saturday in what was perhaps the pick of the forward displays.

"Paddy is a quality player, always was," insisted Gavin. "I had him at underage as well and he was always a talented player.

"He is working very hard at his game and he knows as well as any of the Dublin players that they are only as good as their last game."

When pressed on areas which need improvement, Gavin said: "Our conversion rate is still not what it should be. We created lots of chances and didn't take them, goal chances as well so we could have got a few more."

In four weeks' time, the youthful exuberance of this Dublin team will meet its first real test of significance in the form of a similarly green Kildare, a match Gavin is looking forward to.

"Any time Dublin have played Kildare in the championship it has always been very close and hard-fought," he offered, "and I don't expect it to be anything different in four weeks."


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