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whatever was said it must have worked


GIVEN his icy media demeanour, you couldn't really imagine Jim Gavin issuing the sort of public rebuke of his players unleashed by Tom Cribbin after Westmeath's League loss to Roscommon back in April but similarly, given the Dublin manager's pragmatic nature, he wasn't inclined to knock it either.

"It's obviously worked," the Dublin boss surmised at yesterday's pre Leinster final press conference.

"They've had a great Championship run. Three games. Seven goals and 52 points, we'd be quite chuffed if a Dublin team scored that in three games," he added in that well-briefed way Gavin always conducts his media gigs.

"Whatever they're doing in there is working for them.

"They'll come into this game with absolutely no fear. They'll come to win as we'll come to win. And may the best team win."


Word that Westmeath played a recent challenge match with Mayo and stuffed 14 men inside their own half - sparing only John Heslin the constriction work - won't have come as a massive surprise to anyone, given the scale of their task on Sunday.

Least of all, Jim Gavin, who has experienced a growing number of oppositions adapt such an approach when faced with his team.

Nevertheless, the Dublin manager surmised - as most would - that it wasn't Westmeath's natural game.

"It's not. I have been very impressed with how they have gone about their business," he praised.

"We would have admired the skillset of John Heslin.

"From my time with the Dublin 21s we'd know about the work that is being done in Westmeath and we'd have a good understanding of the players that are coming through.

"Ray Connellan would be one of the guys I didn't know but I was very impressed with him at both wing forward and midfield.

"The way they played their running game and I thought they were quite accomplished in defence when they reorganised themselves at half time.

"They counter-attacked very potently with Kieran Martin pushing up with Heslin and Denis Glennon coming on. They are three very experienced and good players. No matter what way they set up we understand we have a big challenge."

More to the point though, did he feel it realistic for any manager to implement such a system in such a tight time span?

"Yeah, I think it is," Gavin responded.

"I think the challenge for all coaches...the biggest challenge we find is in the offensive side, the creative side of the game.


"I think defensively, when you're putting up those systems, they're a bit easier to manage. It's the offensive work that we go after a lot, obviously.

"That's where most of our focus goes in, the creative bit."

There is then, a touch of the wild card about Westmeath in this Leinster final.

Certainly, they travel to Croke Park unburdened by the native expectation that would have accompanied Meath - their semi-final victims - on the way to Dublin 3.

Whatever comes of Sunday and beyond, Westmeath people will always remember 2015 as the year they slayed their oppressive neighbours and what made it sweeter, no doubt, was the incredible manner of that win.

That many attributed the result to Meath's changing back through the gears wont bother them a jot either, though its a theory to which Gavin subscribes.

"I think last year when I looked at Westmeath, they were very unlucky in some of their games in Division 1. They were very close and just trailed off.

"Since Tom Cribbin has come in, they have added a very professional dimension to their setup. From sports psychology to motivation to...I know he has a former British Olympic nutritionist working with them.

"I think that's been demonstrated in how they're finishing games strong.

"So I think it's more attributed to Westmeath.

"To their fitness levels and their composure rather than to the opposition."

On a totally different topic, Gavin was asked about the incident in a recent challenge match with Armagh that left Davy Byrne hospitalised.


Gavin said Byrne's injuries amounted to a broken nose, denying that the Ballymun player had also suffered a broken jaw injury or a fractured eye socket.

Either way, his eagerness to put the matter to rest publicly was immediately apparent, divulging only that Byrne and the Armagh player in question had spoken.

"Disappointing because I think discipline would be a core philosophy of both management teams of both teams involved," he began.

"Subsequent to that both players have spoken and they regret what happened and both players are now concentrating on their inter-county careers.

"We spoke to both players and both players have had a chat in recent days together.

"I've spoken to Kieran McGeeney about it," he confirmed, "and, like myself, he regretted it happened and was disappointed.

"For Kieran, discipline would be part of his philosophy as it is ours," Gavin concluded.

"We both regret that it happened."