A few months before he won the 1999 US Open, the late golfer Payne Stewart was gifted for his birthday a nylon bracelet by his son Aaron with the letters WWJD emblazoned on them. Having returned to his faith the previous year, the letters were a reminder to ask What Would Jesus Do.
The abbreviation would have a different meaning to Dessie Farrell as there has and will be times when he asks himself What Would Jim Do. But as the example of Gavin is one to follow, the new Dublin manager must plot his own course. So for the five-in-a-row champions what are the five elements where he can stamp his own authority?
Only Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara have officially retired although there are murmurs that others from the 2019 flock are assessing the lie of the land before they make a decision. With Farrell keen to freshen up things, something or rather someones will have to give and players may have to find out for themselves they are surplus to requirements than actually being told. Not featuring in a Championship panel is the first step towards the door but fail to see sufficient or any League game-time and it’s curtains. Don’t be surprised if there are retirements during the campaign or afterwards when Farrell makes his Championship cut.
It’s remarkable that by last year’s final games six of the seven defenders from the 2013 final were still around, Ger Brennan being the exception. Darren Daly, who came on that day, was present again as were Mick Fitzsimons and Cian O’Sullivan who started the 2011 final. In the Gavin era, only Davy Byrne and Eoin Murchan have broken into that group. It’s not as if Gavin didn’t try to find more defenders but they were in short supply. Out of necessity because of age more than luxury Farrell will need to find defenders. Cillian O’Shea could be one, Shane Clayton and Robbie McDaid two others.
“There will need to be improvement in this squad and in our performances in 2020.” Farrell didn’t do a Brian Clough and tell the Dublin players to throw all their medals in the bin when he met them for the first time as a collective on December 19 but turning over the page was necessary. As high performing a group as this has been, for it to continue that way he knows he will have to make alterations almost if not purely for the sake of it. Gavin wasn’t known for loyalty. Farrell mightn’t take as dispassionate a stance as his predecessor but he can explain change why enforcing it.
In fairness to Gavin and his group, they began with the best intentions of being open and truthful but following biting incidents and that infamous Dublin v Armagh game the shutters were pulled down. Farrell has a respected man in Aer Lingus head of human relations Seán Murphy as his media manager and it’s believed there will be more engagement - some details about Con O’Callaghan’s injury were provided to one media outlet during the week - but then Gavin will have told him in this Dublin gig keeping your cards glued to your chest isn’t close enough.
As Farrell said at the opening press conference, such was the lateness of Gavin’s departure that the Na Fianna man couldn’t do anything but go with the existing training locations - Innisfails in the spring, St Clare’s in the summer and the gym in Parnell Park. You got the slightest detection of Farrell being miffed about that although he like Gavin is fond of Carton House. Where Gavin brought Dublin a few times to West Clare close to his father’s homestead for a change of scenery, Farrell might elect for somewhere like Donegal given his strong family links with The Forgotten County.