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Gerry hails Gavin effect

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Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

GERRY HARGAN loves to see the stretch in the evenings. The scent of summer on the breeze, and the championship peeping around the corner.

He likes the bright lights too. Croke Park on a Saturday night – what a good place to be.

He looks forward to ambling down the Clonliffe Road and breathing in the banter. The GAA in the rare new times.

"The atmosphere is brilliant. The lights add to it. Fair play to the GAA for bringing down the prices and having the special rate for kids, et cetera. They are looking at the big picture.

"I know people go on about Dublin playing in Croke Park and all of that, but it is also a great experience for other counties. It's a good opportunity to blood young players in such an arena because there is nowhere else like it in the country."

Gerry feels that Dublin and Cork will also be looking at the bigger picture, but with more than one eye on a fruitful Division 1 campaign as they prepare for their Saturday night date. Both sides have two wins from two. "Cork beat Kildare, who had beaten Mayo, so that was a fine result. They are re-building. Several of their experienced fellas have now retired.

MOMENTUM

"They will aim to go well in the league to help their momentum for the championship. They will try and introduce a lot of new guys.

"At the end of the day, if it all goes to plan, it will be the traditional Cork v Kerry Munster final. And I'd say that Cork quietly fancy their chances in Munster this year.

"Gooch being injured is a major blow to Kerry, who are also in the process of re-building themselves. It's a terrible pity to see the Gooch getting an injury like that.

"I was watching the match on the television. It did not seem that bad initially, but when I saw him going off, I knew he was in trouble. But I still didn't think it would be that serious. He is an absolutely fabulous footballer. He's great to watch – his movement and his ability to score from anywhere. He must be a nightmare to mark.

"He really stood out against Dublin in last year's semi-final. He's Kerry's go-to man, especially in tight situations. Everybody in football can only wish him all the best."

That epic Dublin-Kerry clash rekindled memories of the famous '77 semi-final. And Gerry has praise for Dublin's performance against the Kingdom earlier this month, and for the work of Jim Gavin.

"Jim has the knack. And Dublin have such strength in depth now. The bench is so important, especially with the introduction of the black card.

"The lads on the Dublin bench are just as good as the fellas on the field. Against Kerry that night, he was able to bring guys in to slot into any position, experienced guys.

"The competition for places is unbelievable. It's a bit like the Kilkenny scenario in Nowlan Park when their As would be playing the Bs, and you couldn't tell the difference. Jim will be keen to give the younger lads a run, but, at the same time, he'll be trying to win the league. It is all about keeping the momentum going."

These days Gerry is wearing the bainisteoir's bib himself. He is with Ballymun Kickhams in Division 7 of the AFL.

"If Jim Gavin thinks he has problems, he should see what my job involves," quips Gerry, who explains that the role entails being a jack of all trades, with 'taxi-driving' being high among them.

"Ah sure what else would I be doing, sitting on the couch watching Coronation Street. I enjoy being involved with the team. We have a lot of young players coming through, fellas from Paddy's (Christie) team. Paddy has done such tremendous work in the club. He's remarkable.

"Paddy is so thorough. These kids have been very well coached, and our team is an outlet for them to gain that bit of experience."

Like Paddy and Dermot Deasy, Gerry formed part of the Ballymun full-back society. "It was a coincidence at the time that all the Dublin full-backs were coming from the one club.

TRADITIONAL

"But the full-back role has changed so much now. It is not the traditional way anymore of marking the full-forward. You could end up anywhere on the pitch now."

Gerry won the lot with the Dubs – All-Ireland, League and All Star awards. He also collected two Dublin Senior Football Championship titles with Kickhams.

Yet the furthest they got was the Leinster final.

"Baltinglass and Portlaoise were the two kingpins at the time back in the early and mid-80s. Once you got out of Dublin, it was very difficult. It was equivalent to inter-county football. The standard was very high."

Even more so today. And especially so within the capital. "St Vincent's beat Ballymun in the county final replay. It could have gone either way. There was only a kick of the ball between them.

"It just shows how tight things are in Dublin. And not just teams like Vincent's and Ballymun. You have Kilmacud and St Brigid's too. And the likes of Sylvester's have been there or thereabouts. There are a few teams who can beat each other every week in Dublin."

Gerry is a fan of the Vins and he is optimistic about St Patrick's Day.

"They'll have Ger Brennan back. He's a great leader. Diarmuid Connolly can turn it on at any time and then there's Tomás Quinn, playing out of his skin. I have never seen Mossy play better, even at the height of his career with Dublin. He is still a young man. He is the Gooch of this Vincent's team.

"Castlebar Mitchels will obviously have a game-plan. Playing in Croke Park will be a big occasion for them. People are calling it a Dublin v Mayo clash. Tommy Conroy and his management will have their homework done."

It's the overall offering of the Marino men that most impresses Gerry. "The Vincent's lads work so hard. They never give up. The first day against Ballymun, they were well behind and it looked all over for them, but they showed great fighting spirit. They never panicked at any stage. They brought fellas off the bench that were as good as those on the field. They too have a strong bench.

"They have been building for a few years. We are seeing the fruits of that now. I'll be cheering them on."

MARKED

And he has also been applauding another product of the 'Mun Club, Seán George. "It was unfortunate he got sent off against Kerry. He was doing very well up to that.

"He is a very good footballer. He marked the Gooch in the All-Ireland club semi-final last season and he did a very good job."

Gerry has precious memories of his days in Blue. "But it's a different game now. The fitness required, the amount of running you have to do, the weights, the individual programmes, diet and the rest of it.

"It's professional now in every way without the money. We used to get a pint of milk and a banana after training. And tea in a plastic cup. Those days are gone. Long gone."


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