Friday 20 September 2019

Gavin: Nothing can prepare you for the intensity of All-Ireland final day

On the afternoon Dublin secured a place in this final, Gavin seemed barely aware the other semi-final was taking place the following day. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
On the afternoon Dublin secured a place in this final, Gavin seemed barely aware the other semi-final was taking place the following day. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

This being a Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland final, neutral hopes have swelled for a game-for-the ages-type decider by way of concluding a strange, transformative decade for inter-county football.

More in keeping, say, with the 2013 and '16 All-Ireland semi-finals - both instant classics - than the 2015 final, a rainy, edgy game that only truly appeared close on the scoreboard.

"There's no doubt in stages of the game you will see all of the Kerry outfield players behind the ball," predicts Jim Gavin of the terms of engagement for Sunday.

"That's just modern football."

"But," the Dublin manager adds, "most of the work we do is on ourselves and getting ourselves right - that's what we can control ultimately."

Not that Dublin's players will be understocked when it comes to information about their opponents on Sunday.

On the afternoon Dublin secured a place in this final, his seventh as manager including the 2016 replay, Gavin seemed barely aware the other semi-final was taking place the following day, let alone offer an informed opinion on the various merits of the competing sides.

Just over 48 hours later, at Dublin's hastily-staged pre-final press conference, he had Kerry's conversion statistics memorised and to hand.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

"Against Cork," Gavin noted, referencing the Munster final, "the first maybe six attacks, (Kerry) had 1-5 on the board.

"Going into the quarter-final series, they continued that form against Mayo; 19 attacks, 15 points on the board.

"That's impressive.

"And the last day against Tyrone, four points down at half-time and different questions asked of them and they reacted in the appropriate way and finished with aplomb.

"That's not a team that's developing," Gavin suggested, "that's a serious team."

It's also a remarkably inexperienced one.

Of the 26 players who made up Peter Keane's panel for the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Tyrone, 17 of them have never been part of an All-Ireland SFC final squad.

Individually, however, they possess more minor medals than most counties.

"We have a lot of players who didn't have much success at under-age," Gavin pointed out when asked whether achievement at minor or U-20 level had accelerated the development of any of his own players.

"Players develop at different rates but I think what it gives you is playing at that high level and quality games.

"But nothing can prepare you for the intensity and the atmosphere of All-Ireland final day. That's unique in itself."

The sheer freshness of this Kerry side may be their defining feature.

Given they haven't beaten Dublin in summer football for over a decade, that may be no bad thing.

Sunday will, for instance, be the first time David Clifford or Seán O'Shea play against Dublin in the championship.

Gavin described the duo around whom this new Kerry attacking unit has been constructed as "exceptionally talented players".

"And no surprise if you saw their transition through underage," he added.

"Very impressive. And they have added a lot to the Kerry attack this year. Absolutely very impressive. The two of them have probably nailed down All-Stars already, they have been that good.

"But," Gavin went on, "there is a whole host of other players.

"They not only have younger players in terms of age, they have very experienced players who have gone through a lot in that campaign."

"They are on the money and we're going to have to execute a performance to try and be up there with them and hopefully be there towards the end."

Indo Sport

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport