Monday 19 March 2018

How Jim Gavin is able to keep a cool head

Dublin boss Jim Gavin and selector Mick Deegan
Dublin boss Jim Gavin and selector Mick Deegan
Conor McKeon

Conor McKeon

Either Jim Gavin really does have ice in his veins or his sideline demeanour is one of the great emotion-suppressing acts ever witnessed.

In 2013, in what was unanimously decreed one of the greatest games of all time, his team beat Kerry by seven after trailing almost in stoppage time in the All-Ireland semi-final.

When Eoghan O'Gara's shot slammed from the underside of the crossbar over Brendan Kealy's line to end it all, the cameras panned to Gavin.

The Dublin manager, with pandemonioum breaking out to his right, left and behind, took a sip from his water bottle, eyes still scanning the pitch.

For contrast - and confirming that he does, indeed, have a pulse - there is a picture of the final whistle of the 1995 All-Ireland wherein Gavin has sunk to his knee, fists clenched at the sky.

"Well, it's a player's game," he shrugs, as though feelings like excitement and happiness are unwanted distractions relevant only to players, emotions that might, even temporarily, take him out of his terms of reference as manager.

"The management group, it's our job … like, we've been asked by the county board to do a job.

"Which, as far as I'm concerned, is to get those players to be the best they can be. And if I've done that and the management team have done that, we've done our job.

"And if we come up against a team that performs better than us, that's just sport.

"So all of our focus is geared towards getting those players to perform."

So the controlled persona is a deliberate ploy?

"No, I wouldn't say … one is controlled so you can be your best for the players.

"So whatever influence you have on them at a tactical level during a game, you can make those right calls or replacements coming on…"

Yet even at the full-time whistle in his two senior All-Ireland victories as a manager, Gavin has avoided the sort of merrymaking that even Brian Cody regularly engages in with his selectors and players.

"When the game's over, it's over," he shrugs. "And the satisfaction one gets is seeing the players perform. That's what we're driven towards, that performance piece."

So would either the 2013 or '15 All-Ireland compare in any way favourably in terms of satisfaction with '95?

"Oh no, it's a player's game. Absolutely. It's all about playing."

Not even close?


"There's satisfaction from seeing the players perform. In those circumstances, from a management perspective.

"Because myself and the management team don't kick the ball or put those tackles in or make those passes. The players do it."

Gavin talks about processes and 'pieces' a lot and such broad, ambiguous language may seem the efforts of a man outwardly attempting to shield the specificity of those actions from public/opposition glare, but it has become apparent over his outrageously successful term as Dublin manager that that is just the way he runs things.

All things.

"Commercial aviation is a very process-driven industry," he explains, giving a related insight into his methods, taken from Gavin's professional life.

"That's why it's so safe. When you jump on an Air Bus at the front end you'll see two pilots on the flight-deck. "But, behind them is the cabin-crew, behind them is the baggage-handlers, behind them is the engineers, the refuellers, the aircraft security, the air-traffic control, the ground-handlers, the fire-service.


"It's all very regimented, but the strength of it is that you have people following that particular process and within it they can express their individuality.

"It's the same process in any dressing-room.

"You have 30 players and a system you want to play to and a game plan, but you want those players to express their uniqueness because that's what makes them special, that expression piece on the field of play."

Naturally then, Gavin sees no advantage for his team in the fact that their only experience of All-Ireland finals are winning ones, whereas Mayo have suffered the very opposite affliction.

"None, really. It's a two-horse race now. It's whichever team can perform to the best of their abilities in the final.

"We have never, ever looked back at our past.

"If we perform in some areas the way we did against Kerry against Mayo, Mayo will definitely punish us.

"That has always been our process. Whether other teams look back and try and get motivation from them … it's certainly not part of our culture.

"It's always about the next game," he concludes.

"And trying to be the best in our next game."

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