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Gavin's focus on growth


THE O'Byrne Cup is littered with the burnt gunpowder of bright sparks who momentarily lit up January evenings only to fall like a firework upon the arrival of February, yet Jim Gavin is naturally keeping an open mind in these early weeks of the season-after-the-year-before.

Asked on a drenched Wednesday night after his young and unfamiliar team had secured a second victory of this year's competition with another comeback win, this time over Louth, whether a strong body of work in this year's pre-season competition could catapult a previously peripheral or unheralded name into league contention, Gavin's response was both brief and staunch.

"Absolutely," he stated.

"You're looking for their attitude," Gavin elaborated of his chief pre-requisite for spring consideration.

"That's the most important thing. As far as the Dublin management is concerned, and if they really want it, the evidence would suggest that those players get it."

Specifically and understandably, Gavin was asked about Daniel Watson, the big St Anne's full-forward whose introduction energised Dublin visibly and whose two goals effectively won them a game, having collectively scored just a point in the first half.

Watson isn't, however, a complete inter-county novice.

Previously, he appeared for Dublin at this juncture in 2010 under Pat Gilroy, when the then-Dublin manager was rebuilding his team in a wholly different light post Kerry and those 'startled earwigs.'

He came on as a first-half replacement for Ballyboden St Enda's Andrew Kerin in Dublin's one-point loss to Meath in an O'Byrne Cup quarter-final replay in Navan and didn't score or reappear in blue again.

Yet his 2-1 from just four touches of the ball on Wednesday night was as impressive and direct as it got in such heavy conditions.

"We've been looking at Danny for a few years now, to be honest," revealed Gavin.

"We said we were looking hard at club games and he impressed ... St Anne's got to the play-offs in Division 2 last year so he has been very much up in lights for us, so we brought him in.

"We gave him the opportunity tonight and he took it with both hands."

Suffice it to say that already, a long and pretty illustrious queue of contenders are awaiting their chance in Gavin's inside-forward line.

"But there's clearly no harm in having options either, and the auditioning process isn't confined solely to newcomers.

"It's a pre-season tournament so it gives us the chance to let players play in different positions that they mightn't normally do," Gavin added.

"We had Philly McMahon at centre-forward and Bryan Cullen at centre half-back. You could twist them either way.

"It's good for them overall, for their game sense to experience different positions."

Both Cullen and Kevin Nolan picked up knocks, however, and are thus likely to sit out Sunday's final Group D meeting with DCU in Parnell Park (2.0), although Ciarán Kilkenny – who was named in the starting XV but didn't feature – should be back and available to Gavin, having lined out for his college, St Patrick's of Drumcondra, earlier on Wednesday.

"They wanted him for a game with the college and he hadn't played in a while so that was his priority; with his college," Gavin outlined.

Experimentation notwithstanding, the brass tacks of Sunday's clash with DCU is that a win for Dublin puts them through to the semi-final, thus guaranteeing at least one more test drive – and possibly two – before the altogether more serious business of Kerry in Croke Park in their league opener on the Saturday night of February 1.

"It will mean it adds an extra dimension to the game, which will be good for both managers," Gavin said.

"DCU are looking into the Sigerson in a couple of weeks' time and this will be good preparation for them and good preparation for us, with the league only around the corner," added Gavin.

Somewhat topically though, Gavin stressed the need for balance, with those players who played both last Sunday against Westmeath and on Wednesday night most likely to rest up this Sunday.

"Yeah, you need to be conscious of the players' workload," insisted the Dublin boss.


"Some of them have played the last two games so they need to be managed. We're very conscious of their workload and fatigue levels so we need to rotate a bit now.

"That will come into our minds. It's our third guaranteed game of the pre-season so we need to use it wisely and give every player a fair chance of getting game time and a chance to impress so they can make the squad for the league," concluded the Round Tower, Clondalkin clubman.