Dublin boss Jim Gavin primed for clash of styles against Donegal

From previous experience, speaking to Jim Gavin about the one championship defeat in his reign is a futile exercise.

Either it stung him too much or too little, but he hasn’t been forthcoming with details.

He maintains now as he did last year that it didn’t affect his philosophy. 

Cian O’Sullivan’s toggling between sweeper and centre-back as well as the retreating of Paul Flynn last year are pieces of evidence which counter that claim, but Gavin won’t be budged.

Apart from admitting the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Donegal strengthened Dublin’s resolve, he hasn’t given any hint that the defeat changed his thinking about the game.

Now, just as then, Dublin look the part. 

Even without Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey and with uncertainty over whether James McCarthy will be fit to start, they have added an extra layer of security without taking anything away from their attacking thrust.

As the best finishers in the game, the extended additional time this year as a result of referees allocating 20 seconds per substitute falls neatly into their lap.

On the other hand, Donegal appear determined to slow down the game and cut the amount of game-time.

The pace of the game on Saturday will tell as much as the scoreboard.

“We are going into the quarter-final, each team is there on merits,” says Gavin.

“Each team has a lot of experience amongst their ranks and the game management the players will use in the game. It is up to them to do what they want.

“In terms of Donegal using that system (slowing down the game), it is something I haven’t really commented on or been concerned about. It is there for the officials to keep the game moving on.

“Just on the timing issue, there was some talk about the length, the duration of the game, the fact is we are still playing a 70-minute game, it is just that the clock is being stopped and rightly so when there are substitutes. 

“We do have the capability as a management team to make a lot of substitutes and it does eat into the game time.

“The clock was passed twice by Congress, that hooter, and bizarrely at Central Council it was put down twice.”

Although Donegal’s bench showed well against Cork, the reappearance of Anthony Thompson as a replacement in the Ulster final indicated a certain shallowness.

The same can’t be said for Dublin under Gavin who have freely used their bench tactically from half-time onwards.

In a newspaper profile piece earlier this year, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spoke of how Gavin, who used to pilot the Government jet, used to tell him that former Dublin manager Paul Caffrey was too slow to use the bench.

From his days managing the U21s, Gavin hasn’t been afraid to be ruthless in that regard.

“We’ve always espoused the philosophy of the strength of the squad and it’s not about the starting 15. 

“Sometimes, it’s about the team that finishes. That’s the team that will win the game for you. 

“The other players just set it up. So that has always been a core philosophy of mine.

“We’re fortunate enough to have an exceptionally motivated group of players who understand that system. 

“Obviously, they all want to get game-time and I accept that. When they don’t, they’re disappointed.

“That’s a natural reaction but the abiding characteristic of them is it’s all about the team, the collective, the sum of the parts and that has probably been their core strength over the last number of years.”

Gavin admits he would make more than six substitutes were he permitted to, but he disagrees with the theory the increased number of replacements, prompted by the arrival of the black card rule in 2013, suits stronger counties like Dublin.

“It’s really about the manager and the management team’s responsibility to get that system across.

“It is about the collective and whether a player has a 10-minute contribution, that’s as important as the player that might be on the pitch for a full 60 minutes in 21s or 70 minutes at senior level.

“I wouldn’t agree that it’s the strength of your panel; it’s about how you use your players, really.”


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