Wednesday 14 November 2018

Jim Gavin expresses 'surprise' over John Small's red card but delivers positive news on injuries

Jack McCaffrey made another good impact off the bench. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Jack McCaffrey made another good impact off the bench. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

While the rest of the country wondered just how much could be read into a first half where Laois caused Dublin more than a few problems, Jim Gavin was interested in only the positives for his side in his post-match media briefing.

Dublin's dominance has been such that even the slightest mis-step from Gavin's side can be misread. But through a combination of intelligent Laois play and their own wastefulness, Dublin were way out of sorts in the opening 35 minutes.

Usually a model of efficiency they kicked nine wides, dropped another couple short, missed a penalty and butchered at least two more clear goal chances.

But Gavin was intent on keeping the good side out.

"We're delighted to retain the Delaney Cup again, the competition means a lot to us," he opened.

"Overall, happy with the performance. In the first half Laois played really well and our boys created a lot of scoring chances but just didn't convert.

"But the positive thing at half-time was we were just a little bit clunky but creating lots of goal chances, lots of chances for points, just didn't take them.

"We continued in the second half; the contrast was we were quite clinical in the second half. I think our first wide was after the 26th minute of the second half.

Contributions

"So really positive how we executed, lots of scorers from play, maybe eight or nine different scorers. And good to see contributions from players coming back to play.

"Overall, a great team effort and we're really pleased with how it worked out for us."

Dublin moved through the gears in the second half, outscoring Laois by 17 points to 0-5 after the restart. But the real interest in this game lay in the opening 26 minutes. At that stage, Laois trailed by just a point. Despite the concession of a goal after just four minutes, they had made a good fist of making life difficult for Dublin.

Colm Begley was the launch-pad for many of their better attacks as they looked to go long to Donal Kingston and Evan O'Carroll at every opportunity.

With those two winning their individual battles and the rest making life difficult for Dublin at the other end, Laois were outperforming widely held expectations, a view that didn't impress manager John Sugrue.

"I was reasonably confident we could have a go at them," said the Laois boss.

"I was probably the only one who was reasonably confident by the looks of things, including ye guys (the media)."

Laois' challenge failed badly after the second half. Even the dismissal of John Small made little difference to the game, with Sugrue identifying the depth of Dublin's panel and their superior conditioning levels as two of the main reasons for their power surge.

"Two very different halves yeah," he agreed. "We competed to some degree in the first half for sure. Now they had their chances, we had our chances, probably both teams didn't convert to a great degree.

"But yeah, competitive first half… (in the) second-half they were athletically superior to a great degree. They ran hard and they ran very clear lines and they found their spaces.

"They're a very well developed side. They know their jobs and they know their positions and they know what they're doing in their certain positions of the field.

"They have real quality (on the bench). Now, I'd still consider that we've got quality on the bench but Dublin… the scenario at present is that they're the standard bearers in the country.

"We've measured ourselves against them and we've come up short. We've obviously got work to do to close the gap.

"And it's a significant amount of work to do, but I'd like to think we might have raised one or two eyebrows during that first period as regards to what competition we could bring to the game.

"Obviously it wasn't sustained, but with regard to the coverage of this game there was certainly a lop-sided view on it."

It's the first backward step for Laois in a season that has only seen progress to this point. They will find out who they will face in the qualifiers next Monday morning.

Dublin move into the Super 8s with plenty to work on. And while Laois asked them more questions that they have been accustomed to of late, they should have more options by time they face Galway in Croke Park on the weekend of July 14/15.

Gavin confirmed that captain Stephen Cluxton, who spent the game in the stand wearing an earpiece, would be fit for that game, while Cian O'Sullivan will also be ready for action.

Jack McCaffrey might also be included from the start after making another good impact when brought on at half-time.

However, Gavin hinted that Dublin might need to reach an All-Ireland semi-final for Bernard Brogan to see action this summer.

Format

And Gavin admitted that the new format that sees teams play three games in four weekends will pose different questions for his squad.

"Thankfully there is a great team ethic there and this team has demonstrated that whatever a player is asked to do on behalf of his county he is willing to do that, whether that means play the full 70 minutes or seven minutes they will do that."

However, they will be without Small after his dismissal.

"I'm just off the pitch but my initial reaction was that it was just a clumsy challenge. I don't think there was anything malicious in what John did," said Gavin.

"I was surprised to see that he went, maybe the linesman said something to the referee, I'm not too sure, but I was surprised he was sent off for that challenge."

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