Gavin: 'Life is not a straight line, there are twists and turns and cul-de-sacs'

Gavin: 'Life is not a straight line, there are twists and turns and cul-de-sacs'
Kerry manager Peter Keane, left, and Dublin manager Jim Gavin shake hands following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Five in a row or not, Jim Gavin was in character facing the press after the final whistle.

The Dublin manager was calm and collected, and made a point of remembering as many of those who contributed to the All-Ireland victory as he could.

“They’re all unique,” said Gavin of Saturday’s game, “But I suppose when you are playing a team like Kerry, they have really asked questions of the guys over the last two games. I know how much it meant to the people of Dublin, the people who support the team.

“There was obviously great expectation going into it, I'm just delighted for the players, really. When there were questions asked of them in both games that they were able to come up with the answers. Whatever about reputations and what people from the outside think of them, they really showed their character for me over the last two games. So first and foremost you are just so happy for those.

“Then for Dublin clubs and the schools that develop these players. When we get them you just add a bit of polish, but the phenomenal work that goes in at Cumann na mBunscoil, for those of you who know that set-up in Dublin. The teachers who volunteer their time, the club members and Games Promotion Officers, who put in whatever 38 or 40 hours a week in the communities which isn't a lot, but they co-ordinate it well.

“To see the fruits of their labour probably doesn't touch on these players, but certainly the next generation coming behind them it is a vital component of it.

“Then obviously for anybody who supports Dublin GAA in Dublin or the team, who might have no connection with any club, but who puts a bit of blue out in their garden or wants to support the boys.

“For the supporters themselves who travel, both at home and on the road, it is probably the loudest I heard them, that I can recall anyway in a game. I'm just thrilled for them overall that the guys can back a performance for their commitment to turn up, to spend time with the players, to cheer them on. There is a sense of happiness, just happy in general. I'm happy for them.”

Gavin’s backroom team also came in for praise: “I have an outstanding backroom team from the medical side to our statisticians, from Bryan Cullen and the S&C, the athletic development of the players and the most important person is David Boylan, my kit man. He does trojoan work for us.

“Davy Hendricks, he looks after all of our facilities and gets everyone in tip top shape for us, if you don't have them . . . like, logistics wins wars.

“Shane O'Hanlon, to have these guys around next year they are huge voids to fill.

“From a coaching side, Paul Clarke has done a phenomenal job, I mentioned Josh (Moran) and Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock, they are just phenomenal men first and foremost and I'm just part of that team and just happen to be at the front end of the bus but they're just two outstanding individuals.

“I've got a really strong team behind me and the county board are phenomenal as well. I'm just fortunate to have John Costello there, so listen, I'm after mentioning all of the parts there to it and all them need to be set up again.

“I haven't had those conversations yet for obvious reasons but I will over the next couple of weeks and then we'll scope it out.

“You're just in a privileged position to work with players that are so dedicated to their sport. I have it easy.

“Club managers have it difficult sending texts around to training, inter-county managers don't do that, people turn up and you have a full compliment for every training.

“You're excited today and excited to look on the horizon but that's probably for another day, I'm not going to get into it now. I'll sit down with the county board and obviously review it, I've a profession outside of this role that I've been asked to do for Dublin GAA and then obviously I've family commitments as well and it all goes into the mix but now isn't the time . . . I have committed to next year so we'll reflect on it in a couple of weeks' time.”

In the specifics of the victory Eoin Murchan’s tearaway goal was a vital score: “Yeah, listen it was a great set move from the throw-in. Really well executed by the team collective, you'd have to say. A really nice execution at the end of the move by Eoin.

Eoin Murchan of Dublin celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Eoin Murchan of Dublin celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

“I've seen it before from him, don't think anybody was surprised when it hit the net. You are surprised maybe to get that space from the opening play.

“Eoin did really well, he really committed himself - it’s what you see from them when you are with them that often. They all have jobs to do, when we meet it is very brief. So your time is precious with them, but they are a great team, great men to work with.”

And their greatness was confirmed by the five in a row, though Gavin said he “hadn’t really thought about it like that.

“It is a fact, I'm not denying that it is a fact. It is great for the county, but our primary aim was to get a performance.

“I'm not trying to dismiss it in any shape or form, it is phenomenal for Dublin GAA for this to happen, but when you are going into a game like this you have to focus on trying to get your game plan, game and process right. That is what delivers a performance like you saw today. The result is the outcome of that.

“Obviously it is a fantastic honour for Dublin, absolutely.”

His captain also made a significant contribution: Stephen Cluxton’s save from Stephen O’Brien in the second half was a crucial moment.

“That’s the result of hundreds of hours. I’ve seen that - if you look back on his stance, that’s not the first time I’ve seen that. Josh Moran, his goalkeeping coach, and the goalkeeping coaches that have worked with him deserve credit for that.

“That’s something that you see replicated. I saw it earlier on this week, I saw it the day after the replay, him spending two hours on the pitch with Evan Comerford and Michael Shields from Sylvester’s, the goalkeeping coach.

“The three of them working on trying to rectify his positioning for Killian Spillane’s goal in the first game. So that’s someone who’s dedicated to their craft, and the result of that is what you see in those clutch moments, to have that composure to make himself big and strong and just do his job.

“That’s what Stephen does – he does his job. He had a bloody laptop, trying to replay in slow motion what way his feet and positioning were. That somebody who’s a master of his craft.

“Through that example, he inspires people around him. Stephen is well able to talk, he’s very articulate and people listen. But how he demonstrates, his actions, that’s what I’m interested in. That’s what he does. He’s a do-er.”

Stephen Cluxton of Dublin saves a shot from Stephen O'Brien of Kerry, in the 54th minute, during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton of Dublin saves a shot from Stephen O'Brien of Kerry, in the 54th minute, during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The manager was also happy to discuss the prodigal son, Diarmuid Connolly: “It’s been great to have him back, he loves Dublin, he loves Dublin GAA, he loves playing for the county, he loves the guys, the guys love him, it was always going to be a win-win.

“Life is not a straight line, there are twists and turns and cul-de-sacs. The way it happened was the way it happened. He was always welcomed and I think I was consistent on that.”

Gavin’s Dublin has a constantly changing cast of characters, though that’s not deliberate, he pointed out: “It’s not something that I set out purposely to do, we do base it on who is performing well and we’ve been really consistent on that with the players.

“If you are performing well you are going to get your slot. Age doesn’t really matter to us. If you are good enough you are good enough, and I think you saw with that Kerry team, some of their players – 19, 20 – and they are good enough to be in.

“They were unfortunate probably that we got a goal at the start of the second half and we obviously built on that. That game could have went either way, so we’ve always – not given youth its chance – but if you are performing well you are going to get a jersey. You are going to get an opportunity.”

When asked about older players being set aside, though, the Dublin boss disagreed with the terminology: “I wouldn’t use that language, it’s not setting anybody aside.

“Like Eoghan O’Gara, who didn’t get much game-time this year, has been phenomenal as a leader in that dressing-room. The same with Rory O’Carroll, phenomenal.

“The way the team dynamic, the way we have it, and to create that environment that everybody has to contribute that everybody has to contribute.

“What you see at the front end there is all the hard work that has been put in the background by those players who commit themselves and drive each other on in the training that we do. You need quality pushing everybody on.

“Like Eoin Murchan has been performing well, he gets his opportunity, that’s the way it works.”

Five in a row represents history, but is it a watershed? Will players continue after this weekend’s victory?

“I don’t see any reason why not,” said Gavin. “These are all players’ choices.

“We get into the campaign next year, and you’re excited to see some of the talent that’s coming around the corner. But each player needs to in the offseason make those choices, because it is a big commitment.

“I’m not saying it’s any different to any other sport. People at that tier one level, be that athletics or whatever, they all have to commit time. But they’re choices that people decide to make for their love of whatever sport it is.”

And the manager himself?

“I’m excited about the future. You look at today, the players that didn’t travel.

“Darren Daly was really unfortunate, he picked up a little nick during the week. Rory O’Carroll didn’t travel. Eoghan O’Gara, who’s just an amazing man, the drive he has.

“Conor McHugh, Seán Bugler, Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne, Cillian O’Connor, Andy McGowan, I mentioned Michael Shields already, so there’s players there that you’re excited…

“I find it difficult to have those conversations (omitting players) because you know how much they can give to the game, but they’re talented players who want to play for their county and are as motivated as ever to go again next year.

“Then you see the U20s who had a good campaign, some nice talent there. Club championships are starting in two weeks’ time. Some players you’re interested to look at there. You’re just in a privileged position to work with players who are so dedicated to their sport.”

For now, however, there’s the enjoyment. The togetherness. The time as a group in the dressing-room.

“For the medal presentation, there are always players at work or abroad with work, so yeah, it’s the last time we’ll be together, being able to reach out and connect with each other, just us and the management team and backroom together.

“So they are special and I can without hesitation remember each and every one of the probably six times we’ve been with them after an All-Ireland final. They are special moments. Looking forward to it.”

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