Saturday 18 November 2017

Gavin not surprised 'evolving' Mayo have found way back to another final

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

For Jim Gavin there's no great mystery as to why Mayo continually fly at Dublin's altitude.

Time after time, Mayo find a way to go toe-to-toe with the best team around. While others have failed to deliver big performances against them in the championship, Mayo are always in touching distance and seemingly a whisker from finally beating them.

"They just have good players," Gavin says, by way of explanation.

"Any time we've met them, there's been three management teams we've met now in the last few years and each one of them have brought something different and something unique and they've all been very good.

"A very good backroom team, they're very well prepared. They seem to have a good blend this year. You see the experienced players across from 2006, Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle, Barry Moran on the bench, Chris Barrett coming strong, that group of players are still the bedrock of the team.

"But you can even see the 2016 U-21 team being introduced now, (Conor) Loftus, (Stephen) Coen, (Fergal) Boland and obviously Diarmuid O'Connor.

"So they've a nice blend now of experienced players and new players pushing through. Quite similar to ourselves actually."

Gavin insists he's not surprised that Mayo have found a way back to the final once more.

"You don't get to four All-Ireland finals in the last six years not having that resilience piece they've shown. Since their defeat in the Connacht semi-final this year, they have really pushed on.

"I'm sure they've learned an awful lot from the nine championship games that they've gone through and they're definitely evolving as a team.

"You see the likes of Andy Moran, you see how his game has evolved over the last number of games. He's very, very impressive. They do have a very strong squad now."

And Gavin believes that Mayo have added another string to their bow this year as they look to see off the Dubs for the first time since 2012.

"I think under James (Horan) they played a particular style of football, under Pat (Holmes) and Noel (Connelly) as well. I thought they were within a bounce of a ball of beating us.

"Certainly this year you can see tweaks to their game-plan. Not only do they have their typical running style which they're very effective at, they're very good at kicking ball now into their full-forward line and winning that ball.

"The two games against Kerry, they were very dominant and mixed it up well. As you say they're evolving all the time and it's going to be a big challenge against them."

Gavin is back in an All-Ireland final for the fourth time in his five seasons in charge as they go in search of three All-Ireland titles in a row.

And he insists the most important thing he has learned is that you can't afford to stand still.

"I think what we've learned is that you have to improve, you can't remain static. Each season that we've taken the team, we've tried to evolve. Each game we've tried to evolve, even from the game against Tyrone, we've identified things we have to work on and we're going to have to get them right against Mayo.

"So that's probably the learning piece, it's the growth mindset piece that we have learned that we have to keep moving forward.

"We're on the right track, there's no doubt about that, but if we remain static, you can see the evolution of the Mayo team and the bits that they're adding to their game.

"I think the game is evolving all the time, we just have to keep pace with it."

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Irish Independent

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