Jim Gavin insists Dublin’s legendary sides of the 70s will always occupy a singular place in the county’s affections, regardless of what the current generation may achieve on Sunday, or further down the line.
Defeat Mayo in Sunday’s All-Ireland final and the Dubs will have their first back-to-back titles since 1977 and their fourth crown in just six years. That would trump the Heffo and Hanahoe collection and their trio of victories in four years, although Gavin believes comparisons are moot.
“That 70s team was unique,” the Dublin manager said. “A unique group at a unique time for the GAA in Dublin. So you can’t compare and contrast. They are completely different times. We are just adding another little layer to the great work that was done by previous managers.”
Such words are totally in tune with the humble vibes that radiate from Gavin and his side despite their dominance of the current decade across league, provincial, and national levels. He has even less truck with the debate as to where his side could stand in the game’s wider pantheon.
“It’s about a performance against Mayo. After that, we will reflect on the game.”
The likelihood is that the same queries and high-falutin’ debates will be dismissed with similar brevity even if Dublin do account for Mayo at the weekend. None of the intriguing subplots that pepper this game are of much interest to Gavin.
For him, it is all about processes and players. Some of his already possess three All-Ireland medals while Mayo’s players approach this test seeking to bridge that 65-year gap to the last collection of men from the county who know what it is to be the best in Ireland.
It is a natural talking point. All the sports psychology in the world doesn’t change the fact Dublin have been there and done it while Mayo must breach new ground in order to get the job done. An advantage for the holders, surely?
“None really. It is a two-horse race now and (about) whatever team can perform to the best of their ability in the final. We have never ever looked back at our past, except at that particular moment in time to review the game and learn what we can from it.
“That last performance wasn’t consistent enough and if we perform in some areas against Mayo as we did against Kerry, Mayo will punish us. That has always been our process. If other teams look back to try and get motivation from them… it isn’t part of our culture.”
So, what of that analysis? How does a manager pick holes in a team that played like Dublin did for over an hour against Kerry? How do you reprimand players for their part in that pre-half-time meltdown when the Kingdom ransacked their parlour given Dublin went on to win in the style they did?
“We don’t pick holes in it. That wouldn’t be the language we use. We always go after what they did well. There were some very good phases of play and performances there. You never get perfection, we are just looking for a high level of excellence. It’s looking at areas we can improve on collectively.
“That is part of their culture. They drive that. They are looking at areas that they can improve on just to be their best. Particularly against Division One and Two teams. If you’re not at your best, you are going to be found out and we have seen that over the course of the championship.”
Mayo’s summer would contradict that. Though punished severely for their shortcomings by Galway, the Connacht side has meandered through the championship to this end point despite a string of performances that begged as many questions and doubts as answers and assurances.
Yet Gavin doesn’t seem taken aback by their presence at this late juncture.
“From what I’ve seen of them, I’m not surprised when you look at the players they have,” he explained. “It’s a very mature team and they have learned a lot. They have been in finals before, so they know how to get here. Over the last number of games in the qualifier series, it has benefited them. They’ve got a run now and tightened things up defensively. They have introduced a few younger players from their 21 squad so it doesn’t surprise me.”
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