Monday 23 April 2018

Room for improvement but we're on right road – Gavin

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup

Doncchadh Boyle

WITH a win from a 'no-win' situation, Jim Gavin's Dublin took another forward step.

In the uncomfortable position of being unbackable with the bookies against old rivals Meath, Dublin eventually side-stepped the sternest test of their credentials to date.

Trailing at half-time for the first time in this championship, Dublin produced a strong second half, hitting 1-11 to Meath's five points to complete the three-in-a-row in Leinster and secure a passage to the last eight.

"I'm happy with the result, but the performance? No," Gavin stated. "I have spoken at length at how we are trying to achieve a consistency in our display. We came up against a very good team in Meath."

The result leaves Dublin with three weeks to find the answers to some of the gaps Meath shone a light on for much of the game.

The Royals had significant periods of dominance at midfield while Stephen Cluxton (right) agreed his kick-outs failed to function with their usual efficiency. Bernard Brogan's hunt for his best form continues, but Gavin insists that the graph shows an upward curve.

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup
Dublin manager Jim Gavin with Brian Cullen after the final whistle
Dublin's Jack McCaffrey lifts the Delaney cup after his side defeated Meath in the Leinster final
Bernard Brogan, left, and Paul Mannion celebrate after the game
Paul Hogan, son Darragh (4), granddad Ben and brother-in-law David Peppard with his son Ben (5) celebrate
Eoghan O'Gara with daughter Ella on the pitch after the game
Meath captain Kevin Reilly after the match
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton takes a successful free kick late in the game
Meath's Michael Newman reacts after missing a goal chance
Meath's Joe Sheridan looks dejected in the dying moments of the match
Meath manager Mick O'Dowd reacts after Stephen Bray misses a chance at goal
Bernard Brogan in action against Meath's Kevin Reilly
Ciarán Kilkenny in action against Meath's Peader Byrne
Meath's Brian Meade in action against Rory O'Carroll
Meath supporters cheer on their team against Dublin
A Dublin supporter during the game
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton leads his team during the parade
Dan O'Regan, and Orla Gannon at Croke Park

"There is incremental improvement all the way. It was such a physical battle. At half-time, it was a very close game and only in the last quarter we pulled away. So that's very satisfying in that regard.

"There were a lot of hard questions asked of the team, probably for the first time since we played in the National League final. And that's twice they have responded. I'm happy in that regard."

Cluxton dismissed the limp he carried late on as "old age" while Paddy Andrews missed out on a starting spot due to a hip injury. Both are expected to be available for the All-Ireland quarter-final on the August bank holiday weekend.

"We keep winning," Gavin said. "That's what it is about. And once we keep winning and link in the consistency of performance that we have been searching for (I'm happy), but we haven't got it yet. The players know there are lots of areas to improve on over the next couple of weeks."

Mick O'Dowd and Meath woke this morning with an idea of who they'll have to beat to return to Croke Park this year but the Royals' manager wasn't in the mood for taking plaudits. "We didn't come here to give a heartening display. We came here to get a Leinster title. We didn't do it. Our first half showed what we wanted to do. Our second half didn't.

"I'm sure there are a lot of positives from that display, but it is hard to go through them now because we are pretty hurt by that. We lost a Leinster final. There was a cup on offer there.

"We came up to win not to see how we would get on against them."

While ruing his side's performance after the interval, O'Dowd believes his young side will improve.

"We have to get used to performing against teams of the calibre of Dublin. That is the first time we have done it this year but we were really looking forward to that challenge.

"They have been playing teams of a similar standard to themselves all this year. That is our first step up to that standard. We were under a bit of pressure most of the second half, but the last 15 minutes is probably when teams used to that intensity can kick on and win games and we weren't able to do it."

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