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'We have to improve all the time' - Gavin

STAT alert: In the 13 All-Ireland football championships to have been completed since the opening of the first back door in 2001, more defending champions have been beaten at the quarter-finals than at than any other stage.

Five have fallen at the last-eight stage in the last 13 years, so to speak; namely Galway (2002), Tyrone ('04), Kerry ('10), Cork ('11) and Donegal ('13).

Needless to say, Dublin manager Jim Gavin wasn't particularly enthralled, enlightened or indeed, concerned when fed that little nugget yesterday morning.

But if things go askew tomorrow night in Croke Park, at least he can't say we didn't tell him so!

"I don't know," he shrugged, with some justification, given he had been asked to explain something he wasn't actually aware of five seconds previously.

"We just see Monaghan as our biggest threat now we don't look beyond the next game.

"We have taken that philosophy through all our games we played and we have prepared and worked hard at our game over the last number of weeks and tried to prepare the team as best as we can, so the players can be the best they can be against the Monaghan challenge."


Really though, the query was just an invitation for Gavin to shine a little light on whether he felt his team were in a place as conducive to success as they were at this juncture in 2013.

"What you're looking for after each game is for the team to grow," he explained.

"If we remain static, other teams will pass us by. There's always lessons learned in every performance that we have and there are also areas you always go after. Some things are done well and some things aren't done so well. We're always trying to grow as a team and I think we have.

"All teams grow and Monaghan are no different. They were very close to beating Tyrone in the quarter-final last year, having won Ulster in 2013. They would see themselves as having grown since then and they have.

"They had a very impressive national football league campaign, culminating in a very good win over Donegal in Croke Park. At this level, all teams are looking for incremental progress as each season goes on."

As is his wont, Gavin was very keen to talk about Monaghan.

Enough about us … let's talk about them.


And in keeping with tradition, he had a little dossier on every player in the team, the merits of whom were espoused on an individual and non-discriminatory basis.

Asked about his own team's tactics in a sort of general way (the question, specifically, was whether the way Monaghan tend to align their team forces opponents to kick from distance), Gavin began: "They get a lot of people behind the ball but they can move up the field quite quickly and have a very robust full-back line.

"Drew Wylie at full-back is playing very good football, very solid and can score" he started and away he went.

Some moments later, Gavin was pressed on Monaghan's style.

This, however, was a question of philosophies, something about which Gavin has been quite strong and open in his spectacularly successful reign thus far.

To his mind, this Dublin team merely play a style in-keeping with the traditional values of county football teams from the capital, not to win points for artistic merit or save the game from aesthetic ruination.

Which isn't to say that he necessarily has a problem with any else's ideology.

Asked whether he saw the merit in Monaghan's style, he responded in the affirmative.

"You would, yeah," Gavin nodded, before elaborating.

"How a team sets itself up is to do with the culture of the team, the details of the manager and his players and how they see the game should be played.

"There is no right or wrong way," he stressed. "It's just how each county and its manager sees the game to be played.

"Monaghan are very comfortable with their system. Looking at the team sheet, there are 16 players who played against Tyrone last year in the quarter-final who got game time against Kildare

"So they are a very experienced group of men, very comfortable with their system and have had a lot of success with it."

It is well-known that before their 2011 All-Ireland semi-final with Donegal, Dublin's internal training matches comprised the 'A' team playing against a 'B' bolstered by the addition of several players, all of whom took up positions in their own '45'.

Presumably, it's a facet of preparation in which most teams have indulged but if Gavin sees any merit in such an exercise, he certainly wasn't about to admit it.

"No we don't set it up like that at all," he insisted.

"We are trying to get the core group to play football the way we want it to be played. That's what we go after.

"Naturally we talk about opposition and how they set themselves up but the core work is done in trying to play our game and trying to be the best that we can be," he concluded.

"That's all we can control really," concluded the Round Tower, Clondalkin man.