David Kelly: 'Why Jim Gavin may look to the collective to stop Kerry's Fossa maestro'
“DISMAYED I was a Cooper, lost out to redundancy…”
And so, as the autumn light declined in St Anne’s this week, who would succumb after Jim Gavin’s inner voice finished humming ‘ring a ring a rosie’?
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Everyone; for that is how Gavin’s Dublin operate; they all fall down as one, and rise as one.
Much has been made of Dublin’s apparent snub of RTE’s man-of-the-match award; aside from the very concept being repugnant to them, the management were loath to publicly allow a situation develop where one of their players was singled out for sycophantic praise.
Even if Jack McCaffrey’s performance was one for the ages, the message was stark and simple; this had been a below-par performance and nobody would escape internal inquisition.
Including the management.
No replay is its original’s identical twin; rarely even a sibling, but Dublin circumspection will induce subtle changes in approach and in personnel.
Their key conundrum will be finding the balance as they seek to rectify both the scoring power they lacked the last day and the defensive flaws undone by, amongst others, the meteoric David Clifford.
The Fossa maestro did so much but could even have done more; so too Jonny Cooper; wayward scoring attempts and awkward tackling attempts cost both players and their respective sides.
Both men will feel they can thrive a second time. Cooper will again seek the manager’s trust, a quality of mercy some felt was too strained the last day as the call to relocate Mick Fitzsimons whirled throughout the Hill like an urgent murmur.
The injury status of John Small and Cian O’Sullivan, the latter hamstrung a fortnight ago, complicates matters, as does the equivocation in midfield, with Gavin eager to site James McCarthy there.
For it is not Dublin’s style to respond to a threat in isolation but rather seek to subdue a collective; and they counter not with the flourish of an individual but rather with a communal effort.
And sometimes less can be more.
Gavin’s professional life will inform his sporting one; no industry responds better to mistakes than aviation; no manager accrues greater knowledge from minor setbacks than Dublin’s manager.
His actions will also be informed by context; though Cooper’s dismissal thieved his side of a man, it did not stymie their challenge as it may have done.
They finished the match with a superlative burst; they enter the new one without being weighed down by the burden of history; rather, they are freed from it.
So too Cooper, if trusted by Gavin to renew rivalry with Clifford; the protection will be afforded further out the field, while the marker himself will seek to get out in front, rather than risk becoming entangled with the equally physical Kerryman.
If it is to be Fitzsimons, with Cooper switched to Paul Geaney, the same precepts still apply; Dublin need to occupy the vast acreage in front of the ravenous Kerry forwards.
Gavin must decided whether to do that by installing a dedicated sweeper, such as a fit O’Sullivan or Eoin Murchan (football’s answer to Pulp Fiction’s Winston Wolf; effortlessly speedy and tidy).
Alternatively, he will commit man to man and charge those like Brian Fenton to limit the surges of Jack Barry into enemy territory.
McCarthy’s return will help Fenton while Brian Howard’s will also be deployed to drop back, although not as much as the last day.
Gavin will be careful not to seek to retreat into a conservative shell as he aims to plot the way forward. His trust in his squad is as absolute as the faith he invests in every single individual within it.
That faith was stretched to its limit in the drawn game; that does not mean Dublin will simply abandon their principles.
This may not be the same game but they will play the same game; they also know that Kerry changed theirs with the winning post in sight on day one.
The pressure points have been reversed.
Everyone expects Clifford to light up Croke Park, to once more subdue whatever defender he is tasked to torture.
It is easier to destroy than create and, now forewarned, not to mention before an even more attentive referee in Conor Lane, Dublin’s defence will have spent the last fortnight tweaking their tackling technique.
As they have always done, they will trust each other to get the job done.