Tommy Martin: As soon as Jim averts his gaze, Dublin’s gone to the Bleedin’ Rapids

Tommy Martin: As soon as Jim averts his gaze, Dublin’s gone to the Bleedin’ Rapids
Outgoing Dublin manager Jim Gavin at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel last season. Gavin kept his own public profile in check. In this very act of sublimation, Gavin was setting the ultimate example to his players, says Tommy Martin. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jim Gavin is only gone a couple of days and already things have started to slide.

Dublin City Council earlier this week signed-off on €23m in funding for a white-water rafting course in the IFSC, because, you know, that’s exactly what the city needs right now.

Critics called it a waste of money, forgetting the handy metaphor the choppy waters will provide for TV news reporters covering the next financial crash.

We may never know what Gavin thinks about the facility already being dubbed The Bleedin’ Rapids, but he must surely at least have raised a quizzical eyebrow.

For random daftness, it is a bit like Kevin McManamon coming on as a substitute in full Elvis Las Vegas-era white jumpsuit while riding on a segue.

Strictly speaking, the deployment of public monies was not in Gavin’s purview, but it cannot be a coincidence that something so zany was approved as soon as the great man’s vigilant gaze over the capital was averted.

Could it be that Gavin’s emollient presence was all that was holding the city together? That all the problems of the sprawling metropolis — the housing catastrophe, the traffic snarl, the preponderance of doughnut shops — were held in check by aura of the inscrutable man in the baseball cap?

Was his seven-year reign with the Dubs like the iron rule of Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, and now that he’s gone, the citizens will rise up, storm the barricades of Wood Quay, and cast their rulers into the nearest municipal watersports facility?

Probably not.

It would be lovely to think that the departing Dublin senior football manager’s famous Zen calm had some sort of positive impact on the general wellbeing.

But many of city’s inhabitants, locked in their Silicon Dock towers or preoccupied by the search for the perfect Poké bowl, wouldn’t recognise Gavin were he to run them over on a Deliveroo bicycle.

For a man who can be strongly argued to be the greatest manager in the history of Ireland’s national sport, he leaves behind barely a trace on the public consciousness.

There were no crags of personality to get a foothold on. Mario Rosenstock and Oliver Callan hadn’t a hope.

Nothing became his leadership of Dublin like the leaving of it, vanishing into thin air as he did last Saturday without fuss or warning, like the Littlest Hobo heading off at the end of the episode after saving a hapless bunch of hayseeds from a burning farmhouse.

Tributes in the days since have marveled at Gavin’s ability to stoke the Dubs’ self-propulsive internal culture while inhabiting the public persona of a milk carton. He resisted the urge (most of the time) to drive the agenda via his own media appearances, putting you in mind of the message from the stoical Queen to a young Prince Charles in the Netflix series The Crown.

“To say nothing is the hardest job of all,” says Liz, who, in another life, would have made a great media manager for the Dubs.

It has been wisely noted that in this very act of sublimation, Gavin was setting the ultimate example to his players of the kind of self-sacrifice to the greater cause he would demand.

Tommy Martin: As soon as Jim averts his gaze, Dublin’s gone to the Bleedin’ Rapids

Like a tracksuited Gandhi, Gavin got his followers to lay down their egos by his own example.

The strange thing is that this wildly successful message could not be less in keeping with the spirit of the times. By championing the greater good over the individual, Gavin was proposing an idea that would see him pilloried as a dangerous pinko were he a politician launching a manifesto.

Look at the quotes from Gavin’s introductory press conference in 2012 at which the new manager set out his vision. “My goal is to create a team which is imbued with an ethic which puts winning for the team and the county ahead of individual glory,” Gavin said.

“A team that will accept patterns of play and tactics which are designed to support the team rather than inconvenience the player and to build a team that has a strong awareness of the traditions and values of Dublin football. I would see teams that play with humility.”

Not since the popular beat combo Five vowed to make everybody get up — and, indeed, get down again — has there been a mission statement so successfully realised.

Gavin created a sort of socialist utopia at a time when the dominant ethos in society is relentless self-promotion and I’m-alright-Jack individualism.

How did he convince a bunch of young men to subsume themselves to the greater good when all around them their peers were gurning incessantly into Instagram?

How did the Dubs collective ethic succeed in a country whose government are betting on just enough people not being homeless at the next election to get them back into office?

White-water rafting aside, the reality of the modern city that his team delighted for so long came this week via a letter from Fr. Peter McVerry to The Irish Times.

The campaigner noted how he had attended court on behalf of a homeless boy who was being charged for stealing a €1 bottle of orange, while a TD with a full-time job in Brussels stopped into Dáil Éireann to sign up for his €51,000 expenses.

This dystopian picture of Dickensian inequality is in sharp contrast to the communal ideal of Gavin’s squad.

Of course, it’s a fantasy to imagine the former Dubs supremo as a superhero, soaring to the rescue of his native city as it is pillaged by rack-renting landlords and Wetherspoons franchises, busting up a questionable council planning meeting just before it votes to change the name of O’Connell Street to ‘Facebook Avenue’.

But then again, he does know how to fly…

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