Sunday 22 April 2018

Jim Gavin: When I hear Kerry talking about Dublin football, I take it with a pinch of salt

Stakes starting to rise as big fish size up each other, writes Donnchadh Boyle

Gavin: Praise for Fermanagh
Gavin: Praise for Fermanagh
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's the time of year when everything cranks up a little. There's a more at stake and having lorded it in their domestic arenas, the big fish are now swimming in the same pond.

And with that, the discourse around the Championship ramps up a little. This week Darragh ó Sé pointed out that a clash for Dublin against Fermanagh isn't what they needed.

His point was that Dublin will likely go into an All-Ireland semi-final without a decent test since the back end of the league.

When those remarks were put to Jim Gavin at his press briefing yesterday, he wasn't biting.

"I have said it before: when I hear Kerry talking about Dublin football or other counties, I take it with a large pinch of salt."

It's all only shadow-boxing at the minute.

Fermanagh will play Division 2 football next year are one of just four teams left in the race for Sam with an All-Ireland-winning manager but they couldn't be further removed from Dublin.

In terms of resources and playing population, they are very much the cuckoo in the nest in terms of the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

And Gavin wants smaller counties to be properly resourced from central level to help make them competitive.

"The good decision that the Dublin County Board made over a decade ago was to try and get coaches into clubs and schools.

"I know there was a lot of pressure on teachers, particularly at Cumann na mBunscol level to get teams out.

"But to have that support at local club level with a coach has proved dividends and you can see the participation levels of Gaelic games in the county continuing to rise, which is a testament to the coaches we have," Gavin said.

"That template should be used on the other counties. And they should be resourced accordingly."

"It's a fantastic achievement for them to be so competitive," Gavin added. "I know from a club perspective, they have less than 20 clubs. That's just being realistic about it.

"That's why it's a fantastic achievement what Pete McGrath has done with the team."

Given that Dublin would have played Cork on Sunday had they defeated Kildare, Gavin travelled to Semple Stadium last weekend.

But the Lilies' win over the Rebels, combined with Fermanagh's toppling of Westmeath, means it's the Erne men coming to Croke Park. And Gavin admits that left the Dubs scrambling a little this week.

"A lot of work was done over the last few days researching Fermanagh. They haven't come across our radar before. We have been very impressed with what we have seen," he said.

"They are a team that has played with a lot of structure. They have Pete McGrath, a man that I would have huge admiration for with all he has achieved in football going back to Burren in the 1980s.

"He came across our path in '09 with the U-21s. He had good success there with Down. Obviously his legacy is '91 and '94 with the Down senior football team, that breakthrough for Ulster teams, and they have obviously blazed a trail ever since.

"Pete, the way he carries himself like all good leaders, is humble as he goes about his business. He has always said that it is a players' game and that he is there to facilitate it and empower people.

"That's the way he has this Fermanagh team playing and with a lot of structure in defence."

They will likely be better briefed in their defensive set-up than Westmeath were in the Leinster final, when they attempted to employ a game plan that had been pulled together in a couple of sessions.

But Gavin rejects the notion that Westmeath caused them undue stress in that game.

"I'm sure if they did push on there would have been spaces for us to exploit.

"They made it difficult by playing 13 men behind the ball. The counter to that is they made it difficult for themselves to score.

"That's the balance you need to get if you are going to play a counter-attacking style of football. It wouldn't be in our DNA.

"I'm not saying it's the right or wrong way we play a particular way and we would like to keep playing that way."

Irish Independent

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