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'The players who perform in training will start the final'

A League final place confirmed against Tyrone; next stop Clondalkin for the Dublin roadshow under Jim Gavin's management.

And if any of the Dubs were tempted to consider next Saturday's challenge with Galway at Gavin's Round Towers club as a fun day out, they can forget it.

Gavin's mantra can be summed up in two words: 'competition' and 'performance'. Nothing else counts, and with the league decider on Sunday week, places will be up for grabs.

"We play Galway next week and already the focus shifted from this game to that one in the dressing-room. The players are acutely aware that we have two sessions during the week and the guys that perform well will get slots on the two weekends that are coming up," said Gavin.

The emotional tug at the heartstrings that is part of bringing his Dublin team to his home club won't detract from the business at hand, which is keeping the pedal to the floor as Gavin demands more from his squad.

Yesterday's 18 scores – two goals and 16 points, was a good return, and Dublin also carved out three more serious goal chances.

Against that, Mayo got 16 points, and had their own close-range efforts at Stephen Cluxton's goal denied on three occasions.

Still, Dublin always looked like they had plenty to offer and now they face into their second league final in three seasons.

Satisfying

"It was a satisfying result in the end," said Gavin. "It's great to come out here and play a quality side like Mayo. Both halves were hotly contested but I think our guys did enough in the end to win."

Mayo made the early running and were three points up without reply until Paul Mannion blasted the ball to the Mayo net after 13 minutes.

Jason Whelan's excellent strike for Dublin's second goal three minutes later put the Connacht men on the back foot and helped get the Boys in Blue into their stride.

"It was a slow start, but Mayo came at us and they are an extremely good team," added Gavin. "They have been the standard bearers and have been consistent over the past two years, getting to the league final and All-Ireland final.

"They have players to come back – like (Keith) Higgins and the two Morans (Barry and Andy) – so I expect to see them figure strongly in the back end of the championship.

"Mayo started well against us. That's just the ebb and flow of a game and it is important that our players stick at it and stick to the game plan, which they did.

"They got their just rewards, and had a very good patch there in the first half and played some good football but, overall, we have work to do."

James Horan wasn't too disheartened by the defeat, and he, too, has Galway on his mind.

Unlike Gavin, the Mayo concentration on Galway will be intense as they face the Tribesmen in their opening championship match at Pearse Stadium next month.

"It was a bit of a crazy game. There were probably 12 or 13 of the best goal chances you will see in a game. We probably had six or seven of them, Dublin had six or seven," Horan said.

"We took two and they didn't. The two we conceded were down to terrible defending. That's stuff you can fix and work on.

"Dublin deserved their win. They had a full crew to pick from, they were running strong and they ran away from us in the end a little bit, but it was a good game for us.

"We were down some of our main players and we gave chances to four or five new guys. I found out quite a bit today about the players that we've got, so from that point of view I am sort of delighted to have the opportunity that we had today.

"There were positives and negatives; that's great ammunition for us to take away and use over the next couple of weeks as we prepare for the first round of the championship."

Dublin skipper Cluxton – as cool, calm and collected off the pitch as he is on it – won't be getting worked up just because the team is now in a league final.

"We're still building from previous management to this management, so we're still in transition. This will just be another game to try and improve on our last one," he said.

Irish Independent


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