Monday 23 September 2019

Ruthless Gavin may well have to ring the changes again

Dublin manager Jim Gavin during the drawn final. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin during the drawn final. Photo: Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

You could argue, with some justification, that Dublin's experience of playing in an All-Ireland final replay in 2016 present them with a clear advantage as yesterday's combatants begin the process of repairing and preparing for their September 14th date.

Naturally, perhaps, that wasn't a theory Jim Gavin was inclined to explore.

"It's the same for both teams," he dead-panned. "Both teams have experienced it. I don't think that's a factor.

"That's a good few years ago, both squads would have changed dramatically.

"Listen, both teams have experienced management teams and they'll be well able to adjust accordingly to whatever demands might be out there."

Still, for the purposes of analysis at least, there are little indicators from that draw and subsequent replay with Mayo three years ago that may inform us as to Gavin's next move.

Then, Gavin demonstrated a fearlessness when it comes to making personnel changes.

The '16 replay was the first time Bernard Brogan was dropped for a Championship game since establishing himself in the Dublin attack in 2009.

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Gavin also benched another former Footballer of the Year, Michael Darragh Macauley, and David Byrne in an attempt to shake some life out of a team that required the remarkable favour of two Mayo own goals to get a draw in the first place.

Granted, yesterday was different.

Every element of the Dublin performance will be analysed through the lens of being a man down for just over half the game.

And Dublin's most under-performing area, midfield, isn't an area in which Gavin is well endowed with ready-made replacements.

In '16, he moved Paul Flynn to midfield for the replay.

The only player in yesterday's starting 15 who could feasibly switch to that role is Brian Howard, who revelled in his role as a sort of deep-lying playmaker and is likely to be given a similar detail for the replay.

Indeed, midfield cover on the Dublin bench yesterday came in the form of Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne, the Cuala prospect and Dublin U-20 player who made the match-day squad for the first time this year during the Super 8s dead rubber in Omagh.

In '16, Gavin's changes made just enough impact for the team to fall over the line after another gruelling war with Mayo a fortnight later.

He'd gladly take that outcome on September 14th.

Irish Independent

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