Tuesday 21 November 2017

Gavin must handle Dubs' rising stock with care

Title-winning boss will be wary of over-optimism as much as Leinster rivals in capital's time of plenty

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Allianz Football League Division 1 Semi-Final, Cork v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Allianz Football League Division 1 Semi-Final, Cork v Dublin, Croke Park, Dublin. credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Jim Gavin may only be half-way through his second season as Dublin supremo but he has already written himself into the history books for having made the best start to a sideline career since the one-man managerial trend became a part of the GAA inter-county scene 40 years ago.

Not even Mick O'Dwyer or Kevin Heffernan, the pioneering duo who broke so many moulds in the infant days of GAA managers in the 1970s, launched their careers as spectacularly as Gavin, who has presided over four major title triumphs in a year.

Dublin secured two Allianz League, one All-Ireland and one Leinster title since last April, leaving Gavin in the happy position of having landed all the big prizes for which he has pitched so far. And with Dublin quoted at even-money to retain this year's All-Ireland title, he could be on his way to six titles in two seasons.

It's all part of the Capital Revolution which has marched Dublin football to the summit after a lengthy spell struggling to match the superpowers. The search for further glory continues next Saturday when Dessie Farrell takes the U-21s into the All-Ireland final against Roscommon in Tullamore.

DEMOLITION

Dublin's demolition of Derry in the league final, coming just two weeks after producing a 17-point turnaround which floored Cork in the semi-final, has left the dual champions on a real high as they look ahead to the championship, where they will begin their Leinster campaign against Laois or Wicklow in Croke Park on June 8.

The revival was launched under Pat Gilroy's watch when Dublin won the All-Ireland senior title in 2011, ending a 16-year wait. It stalled in the following season when Dublin appeared to suffer from a post All-Ireland hangover but has gathered a whole new momentum under Gavin during the past 15 months.

With the talent chutes opening wider all the time, Dublin could be in the formative stages of a golden era, based on an attacking culture which yields very high scores. Dublin scored a total of 5-39 against Derry and Cork, having earlier hit Kildare for 1-22, Mayo for 3-14 and Tyrone for 3-10.

Gavin has so many options in attack that he didn't start Kevin McManamon, Dublin's top scorer in the league, last Sunday but introduced him as a sub in the first half. McManamon took his chance and scored a goal in the second half to hoist his league total to 3-17.

He was one of six subs brought on but they did not include 2011 All-Ireland-winning captain, Bryan Cullen. Meanwhile, Cormac Costello, Paul Mannion, Jack McCaffrey, Ger Brennan and Dean Rock were absent for various reasons while Ciarán Kilkenny is out with a long-term injury. Some more of the U-21s will, no doubt, be attempting to join Mannion and Costello on the senior squad, using Saturday's final to promote their cause.

The structure in Dublin from juvenile level up has been streamlined most efficiently over the years, with the fruits of the project now reaching maximum yield. The transfer of power has been pretty seamless too with Gavin progressing from U-21 to senior, followed by Dessie Farrell who moved from minor to U-21.

With so much riches at his disposal, Gavin's job is to ensure that it's invested wisely. It has all gone remarkably well so far but now the challenge facing him is how to manage the ever-expanding expectation levels. The impressive manner in which Dublin powered to the league crown after a shaky period in the group games has convinced their supporters that the season is cranking up for an unstoppable march to the All-Ireland/League double-double, something last achieved in 1931-32 when Kerry dominated. Gavin will be far more wary. For while he knows he is in charge at a time of plenty, he also realises that the gap between Dublin and the main contenders is not as wide as the league semi-final and final results would suggest.

Derry, still a squad in formation, froze solid last Sunday, while Cork disintegrated after leading by 10 points early in the second half.

Even allowing for Dublin's awesome power, it was still an inexplicable collapse by Cork, who should have been further ahead before Michael Darragh Macauley's goal launched the recovery. Dublin were quite fortunate to be in the knockout stages in the first place as Tyrone had a chance to equalise with the last kick in the final group game when a drawn would have eliminated Gavin's men.

A week earlier, Mayo conceded a careless goal in the last minute which earned Dublin a priceless point. So while the storming finish to the league has sent Dublin's stock rising to its highest value for years, Gavin knows that the margin between elimination and qualification for the semi-final was extremely tight.

He also knows that the championship – certainly beyond Leinster – remains risky territory. All the more now that Dublin are such overwhelming favourites to win the All-Ireland. That will bring its own pressures, not least the danger of a complacency outbreak.

The Capital Revolution may be well under way but now Gavin faces the massive task of managing it. That's new territory which he must skilfully negotiate amid the inevitable hype and hoopla that will surround everything Dublin do this summer. It will be his biggest test so far.

 

Sky blues under Gavin

Dublin have lost only three of 24 Allianz League, Leinster and All-Ireland championship games under Jim Gavin. The defeats came against Tyrone, Cork and Derry in Division 1 group games, all of which Dublin later avenged in league semi-finals (Cork) and finals (Tyrone and Derry). They also drew with Donegal and Mayo in league games.

2013 LEAGUE

Dublin 1-18 Cork 2-9

Dublin 1-11 Kerry 0-4

Dublin 2-14 Mayo 0-16

Dublin 2-20 Kildare 2-7

Tyrone 0-18 Dublin 1-14

Dublin 1-15 Down 0-9

Donegal 1-10 Dublin 0-13

Dublin 2-16 Mayo 0-16 (semi-final)

Dublin 0-18 Tyrone 0-17 (final)

P9, W7, D1, L1

2013 CHAMPIONSHIP

Dublin 1-22 Westmeath 0-9

Dublin 4-16 Kildare 1-9

Dublin 2-15 Meath 0-14 (Leinster final)

Dublin 1-16 Cork 0-14

Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11

(All-Ireland semi-final)

Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14 (All-Ireland final)

P6, W6

2014 LEAGUE

Dublin 2-8 Kerry 1-10

Dublin 0-14 Westmeath 1-7

Cork 1-17 Dublin 0-18

Dublin 1-22 Kildare 1-12

Derry 1-16 Dublin 0-13

Dublin 3-14 Mayo 2-17

Dublin 3-10 Tyrone 1-15

Dublin 2-20 Cork 2-13 (semi-final)

Dublin 3-19 Derry 1-10 (final)

P9, W6, D1, L2

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