Tuesday 20 February 2018

Dublin legend Brian Mullins adamant Gavin following the blueprint set by 2011 side

Bryan Cullen pictured lifting the Sam Maguire Cup two years ago
Bryan Cullen pictured lifting the Sam Maguire Cup two years ago
David Kelly

David Kelly

Raising the hackles of Brian Mullins in an invitation for nearby windows to crack.

To even submit a theory that Jim Gavin's side have transformed the style of Dublin football can tempt treason in certain northside haunts.

"I don't buy into this theme that he has changed things," bristles 'The Mull', a St Vincent's club-mate of Pat Gilroy, who delivered the Sam Maguire belatedly into Dublin's bosom two years ago.

"Jim is playing more or less the same way the Dublin team did for the last three or four years. I don't think there have been many changes in the way the team play."

Others who have fallen beneath the Dublin steamroller may demur, but Mullins' point has, in fairness, also been expressed by current squad members.

Pace and power have, Mullins concedes, added immeasurable elements to the potent confection available to Gavin. But the former midfield giant dismisses the notion that the players had to work harder before.

"When Bryan Cullen was fit and playing well two years ago, his work rate at half-forward was just the same as Paul Flynn today. I mean, Paul works up and down the field.

"That's an aspect of the game common to the better teams over the last 10 or 15 years. I remember the first team I saw introduce this half-forward working back was a Meath team under Sean Boylan some time in the '90s. So, I don't think that Jim is doing much different than (what) Pat was doing."

The suggestion, anecdotally, was that one of the reasons why Pat put Alan and Bernard Brogan through a period of not picking them was because they didn't work hard enough when Dublin lost games.

"All the Dublin forwards now, as part of the team tactic, are working hard back, chasing back or tracking back," says Mullins.

"Kerry did the same. Donegal brought it to quite an extreme.

"Jim Gavin's instructions mirror the team ethic that Bryan Cullen fitted into three years ago – though, I don't think his form is good now and he's two years on from where he was.

"He is nearly 30, but he is able to retain his fitness and his sharpness and is carrying on that practice.

"I personally don't think there is much difference in the way this Dublin team is playing compared to where they were when they beat Kerry (in 2011).

"There are some individuals who've brought it on a level. Jack McCaffrey's introduction – his pace has been a bonus. Consistently, Michael Darragh Macauley has been a good performer."

Earlier, this boyhood hero of so many true blue Dubliners was almost in tears describing his feelings of appearing in an All-Ireland final for the first time.

That passions still stirs beneath the often stony surface of this momentous man; his features break into a smile when reminded that Kerry v Dublin 2013 evicted 1977 from its proud plinth.

"I'd never concede that," he twinkles. "Our memories dim. '77 is nearly 40 years ago now. But having played in it and contributed to it, I'd never admit that anything could come near it, you know. It's just a jokey thing.

"It's fantasy world trying to compare eras.

"In this period in GAA, it's great for us nationally to have our games and to have them played at such a high level. The elite performances are there for us all to see.

"It's fabulous that they are our native games and we have kids who are practicing and playing those games now and getting ready for the next generation. And they're being inspired by those performances. For me, just being there and witnessing it is great."

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