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Working in unison


Dublin manager Jim Gavin and selector Mick Deegan. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin manager Jim Gavin and selector Mick Deegan. Photo: Sportsfile

Dublin manager Jim Gavin and selector Mick Deegan. Photo: Sportsfile

If you only judged from the League final, you might surmise that Mick Deegan's role in the Dublin management team was part selector, part harbinger of doom.

His most visible pitch incursions that day in the second-half were to speak with Philly McMahon and Diarmuid Connolly, both of whom were substituted not long after, despite Dublin trotting casually towards another substantial victory over Kerry in Croke Park.

"It's important to get those messages . . . but I wouldn't see him as the Grim Reaper when he comes in," laughs Bernard Brogan, when asked to elaborate on Deegan's role.

"He's just trying to give a few words in and usually give you a 'get the head in gear', which is why they're there and its nice to kind of re-frame, and it just gets you going again."

Just before McMahon was subbed, Stephen Cluxton could be seen making a particularly strident point to Deegan, though when asked about it in the media zone afterwards, the Dublin captain replied that he was merely asking whether he should take the penalty Dublin had just been awarded.

Either way, Deegan's role as in-game conduit between management and players appears to work well.

It's rare enough that Jim Gavin even emerges from his seat mid-match to stretch his legs, let alone bellow instructions to players on the other side of an 80,000 crowd.

"Deego is great to come in and just give you words of advice, because sometimes when you're in the mix and you're running around, knackered, it's hard to see something that might stand out from the stands where Deego is, or where Jim is," Brogan continued. "It's important to just get that in, because a game can pass you by and you can be sometimes waiting until half-time before you make a change so it's nice to get someone to just refocus you."

Deegan's, like the rest, is a specifically designated job with set terms of reference and the defined nature of everyone's position appears from the outside anyway, to add a sense of stability to the whole operation.

Largely though, Gavin's sideline squad operate largely under the radar. Deegan, Declan Darcy and David Byrne have been there from the start, though they have managed not to draw too much attention to themselves.


Indeed, they pre-date Gavin's senior days, back to his similarly successful governance of the county's under-21s.

Darcy's self-effacing nature belies his importance to Dublin's coaching ticket.

Byrne should be credited too, not just for helping maintain Cluxton's famously high standards of excellence, but smoothing the take-over from goalkeeping coaching duties from Gary Matthews - with whom Cluxton had worked closely through two management teams and eight years.

Bernard Dunne has been there since Gavin took over in 2013, though he seldom speaks publicly about it and isn't inclined to indulge specifics.

"It involves me being around the team and helping Jim in any way I can," he explained.

"Whether it's being a Maor Uisce or kicking a couple of balls back to the players. It's a holistic role really."

Ditto Jason Sherlock, a post-2014 addition, given the original brief of forwards coach, albeit one with a more thorough influence on all matters of their game-plan.

"He was a very smart footballer and very smart on the training pitch as well," says Brogan, a former team-mate at club and inter-county level.

"Nothing is done for the sake of it with Jason. It all has a meaning and an end goal.

"He's brought a new level to the forward momentum and to why we're doing things.

"He's very clear as to why we're doing a drill and what we're trying to get out of it and what the story is. He's been a great help to us.

"All the players would have watched him and I would have seen him as a very good role model and 'bounced a lot of balls' at him so to have him at every training session is phenomenal for me.

"You can get feedback after games, after training sessions. You can always bounce a ball at him."

It was reported last year that renowned basketball coach, Mark Ingle, had been involved in helping Gavin generate a plan to break down densely populated defences and Sherlock's knowledge and experience of a broad spectrum of sporting interests no doubt adds to his worth in this regard.

"He's played all different sports - soccer, basketball, GAA," Brogan points out.

"It's the mentality he brings in and the competitive nature he had as a player and his love for Dublin GAA and wanting to do well.

"It's great for the young Dublin forwards to be able to bounce balls off him and get his insight because his feedback is second to none."

Saturday's opponents, Laois, have a similarly stacked backroom team.

Mick Lillis has brought Anthony Cunningham on board, someone whom Brogan reckons "knows his stuff" and more recently, Shane Curran has joined as goalkeeping coach.


"Laois are a good outfit," Brogan added. "They've got some really experienced players there that have gone through the ranks and have had success.

"They're smart footballers and they'll be well able to implement a game-plan. We will be respecting that.

"We'll have done our homework for them. We're down in Nowlan Park, outside of Croke Park."

Under Gavin's management, Dublin have treated every threat, imagined or otherwise, with grave importance.

The team have also become more versatile, showing a greater propensity to think on their feet.

"We can't control what they're going to do," Brogan confirms. "Obviously, we don't know what way they will set up.

"We can only look at their past few games and study that and know what to expect but they could throw something different at us.

"But we'll be prepared for all different outcomes."