Spend enough time with Jim Gavin and he isn’t as inscrutable as many make him out to be. Deceptive at times, yes, but not entirely indecipherable.
With a little help from songs in his birth year of 1971, we try and explain more about the brilliant manager hoping to land his third All-Ireland title in four seasons and extend Dublin’s unbeaten run of championship and league matches to 28:
“Got To Be There”, Michael Jackson
We know Gavin is ruthless. Jack McCaffrey could have played more of Dublin’s season be it in the immediacy of UCD’s Sigerson Cup win or now having returned from Africa.
With continuing concerns over the fitness of James McCarthy, a recalled McCaffrey would put a lot of Dublin minds at rest but Gavin wasn’t having any of it. “We’ve known this for some time, we’ve given Jack time to reflect on it,” said the manager in March.
“He’s part of the big Dublin GAA family. He knows that we’re there for him whenever he wants to return to play with the county and he’ll always be welcome back.”
“I Hear You Knocking”, Dave Edmunds
On general GAA matters such as rule changes and structures, Gavin is a mine of opinion but when the direction of questioning points towards Dublin he’s a different animal entirely.
A couple of years ago, he was asked about the well-being of a player who he claimed had picked up an injury in a non-Dublin match.
The player in question admitted off-the-record he actually had a long-standing issue that required an operation. With Gavin, everything outside the camp is done on a need-to-know basis.
Named teams used to be announced on Fridays; now they’re revealed on Saturdays. Once Dublin were known for their fans turning up late; now the tardiness is all to do with the identity of their starting team. It’s not paranoia but secrecy.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”, The Who
There is no game Gavin has played down more than the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal. Indeed, there were rumours last week that Jim McGuinness, the author of Gavin’s one championship defeat, had been invited to give a talk to the Mayo camp, which was subsequently dismissed by team sources.
In truth, it only seems Gavin has been so unconcerned about that match because he has been asked about it so much. If losing is learning consider him taught. The expanded role of Cian O’Sullivan and retreated positioning of Paul Flynn prove that.
“Changes”, David Bowie
Compared to his three previous seasons in charge, scores from the bench have dried up on Dublin this year but no other manager in the game nor any of his predecessors have shown such a will to bring in reinforcements and so early.
It was something Gavin would have felt strongly about as an observer in the past and prior to the win over Kerry he admitted he would make several substitutes more than the maximum of six were he permitted.
“I Am, I Said”, Neil Diamond
Gavin’s had no reason to let the mask slip much this year but there were previously a couple of occasions when he’s revealed more than in hindsight he might have liked.
His awkwardness about the violent incident in the challenge game with Armagh last year was exposed by Colm Parkinson.
After the 2013 final with Mayo, he told reporters: “Not only were we playing Mayo but we were playing the referee as well.”
An iceman on the line he surely is but to suggest he doesn’t get flustered or frustrated is wide of the mark.
“If I Only Could Remember My Name”, David Crosby
Some poetic licence with this one – in Gavin’s determination to show respect to the opposition in pre-match press conferences he regularly goes through most if not all of the other team player by player.
However, from time to time he trips himself up. Prior to facing Donegal, he referred to Paddy McGrath as Paddy Kelly. Last year, he mistook Fermanagh’s Seán Quigley for his brother Seamus, who had left the panel.
“Do You Know What I Mean”, Lee Michaels
Sticking with press conferences, it can be difficult to truly understand Gavin at times when his utterings are so packed with jargon and, this year, made-up words like “intentfulness”.
We can thank him for introducing to the GAA lexicon words like “practice” instead of training, “preparation pieces” and “soft tissue injuries”.
“Never Can Say Goodbye”, Jackson Five
Gavin’s current agreement with the Dublin County Board finishes at the end of next season but if you listen to the likes of Bernard Flynn the 45-year-old will be sticking around for longer than that.
With the control and calmness he brings to the role, it wouldn’t surprise anyone were he to remain in it beyond five seasons.
In the latest Irish Examiner GAA Podcast, Mary White, Anna Geary, Sarah O’Donovan, Linda Mellerick and Elaine Aylward join Peter McNamara, Rory Noonan and Larry Ryan to discuss Kilkenny’s All-Ireland senior camogie final win over Cork.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved