Wednesday 22 November 2017

Gavin's need for speed has Dublin hitting top gear

Paul Flynn: One of Dublin’s speedster
Paul Flynn: One of Dublin’s speedster
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Just when it looked like Westmeath couldn't be pummelled with any more pace in Saturday night's Leinster quarter-final rout, Dublin launched arguably their fastest asset in Nicky Devereux.

A young debutant who routinely clocked the best times over a variety of distances during such a profitable underage career sustained the high tempo they have become accustomed to playing at.

As a show of strength and an indication of the kind of player that is profiting under this regime it was telling that Devereux and Cormac Costello should have been propelled into the action ahead of Kevin Nolan or Bryan Cullen.

Pace isn't everything in the make-up of the modern Gaelic footballer but right now it looks like it's the prerequisite for approval from Jim Gavin and the way he wants his team to play.

It's early in their development and their evolution from the 2011 model and there can be no accurate measurement for such an assumption, but it might not be wide of the mark to suggest that this could be the quickest team Gaelic football has known.

From Johnny Cooper at corner-back, Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy on the wings, Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O'Sullivan in midfield and Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan in the forwards, it's difficult to recall a team blessed with so much speed and ease of movement.

No wonder Gavin routinely refers to his coaches as "the athletic team", the inference clear that they are dealing with a squad of

athletes as much as footballers.

The attacking of space by the likes of McCarthy, McCaffrey, Macauley and Connolly was a recurring feature against Westmeath, and what will separate Dublin from the majority of opponents they will face this summer.

Thus Dessie Dolan's prophecy materialised after all. Early last week the veteran attacker, absent on Saturday night with a hamstring injury, admitted fears that Dublin might "steamroll" his Westmeath team, describing as "frightening" the manner in which they can get a run on a team in a matter of minutes.

It brought to mind the comments of former Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick, who likened Dublin in last year's corresponding quarter-final to "a machine".

At one stage Fitzpatrick admitted to looking up and figuring that there must have been 20 Dublin players on the field and reckoned he had never seen opponents with such power.

Admittedly, they lacked that same energy for much of the rest of the summer until that late rally almost brought them past Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final.


But the language used by Dublin's opponents follows a common trend of admiration – even Mayo manager James Horan was moved to doff his cap to them after their March league meeting.

Trying to match Dublin's high tempo in this championship looks doomed for inevitable failure.

There are still reservations about their defensive alignment.

Denis Glennon got space in front of the Dublin full-back line that he could never have expected in the Pat Gilroy era and that will remain a concern to Gavin.

Darren Daly, Paul Mannion, McCaffrey and Cooper were all making their first championship starts, while Costello and Devereux made their debuts.

At 24, Paddy Andrews has a limited number of championship games behind him.

But Gavin's conviction to leave his own mark on Dublin football is reflected in the faith shown in players like Andrews, Cooper and Daly and the elevation of Mannion, who was only a substitute in last year's All-Ireland U-21 final.

Dublin's dominance of Leinster has been supreme. Since defeat to Westmeath in 2004 they have lost just once, a freak 11-point reversal to Meath in 2010, winning six of the other 24 games by double scores.

Their desire to take the shortest possible route to the business end of the season shows no signs of abating.

Irish Independent

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