The arguments are as familiar to us now as Croke Park, Michael Lyster and an umpire’s white coat, but the ongoing domination of Dublin’s footballers at all levels in Leinster is such that those fires will continue to be stoked as the fine weather sets in.
The question of their residency in HQ has already come and gone in recent weeks and, while issues of population and finance clearly show the gap between the haves and have-nots, it should not be forgotten that counties have an obligation to help themselves as well.
Longford, their opponents tomorrow, are a decent example of just that.
Minor provincial champions in 2010, they have reached two U21 finals since, which is no more than they deserve for a concerted and systematic push at even younger levels where the development squad system rarely leaves a stone unturned. This is a county clearly batting above it’s average and, though their population of roughly 40,000 stands as a bulwark to ambition, it need not be a definitive ceiling. Monaghan’s recent chapters under Malachy O’Rourke tell us that.
The Ulster county has reached the last two provincial finals, winning the first of them, and has hung around in the championship through to August more than once this last decade. All that despite the fact that their population is the fourth lowest on the island.
Jim Gavin takes the point.
“From being involved with the (Dublin) U21s for a number of years, Longford were always very competitive,” said the Dublin senior manager. “We have seen that in recent times. There is a lot of work being done up there, although I understand that it is difficult to keep all those players together. You will only harvest a few from each grid anyway as they move ahead, but the Monaghan template has shown that if there is good coaching and management and a good system that they play to then they can have a lot of success. Longford seem to be on that path.”
Gavin is nothing if not a diplomat, but he had to bide his time yesterday before praising tomorrow’s opposition to the hilt at a press briefing which reached the 19-minute mark before a single question was asked in relation to this game. Joe Brolly and Marty Morrissey were higher up the bill. So, too, the issue of sledging and his contract which he confirmed will conceivably see him remain in charge of the Dublin team through to September of 2017, which is a year longer than was reported earlier this week.
“I go from year to year anyway,” he said of an agreement reached last November with the county board but which has only come fully to light in recent days.
“There are no contracts signed. It’s an agreement between myself and the officers of the county board. If they want me to stay on, I’ll stay on. We just put a bit of structure on it. Obviously, we have plans for the team and to see them through, we thought another three-year cycle would be appropriate.”
Cue a collective groan from the rest of Leinster, you would imagine, and it falls to an old playing colleague of Gavin’s with Dublin, Jack Sheedy, to have the dubious honour of providing the first opposition this summer for the reigning league champions. Gavin, naturally, was fulcome in his praise of his old colleague
“His background (is with) with An Garda Síochána, He understands the game and he was articulate in team meetings. His thoughts and views on the game, he was one of our leaders and it was no surprise to see him do well at club and now inter-county level. He has also got Sean Finnegan working on his analysis who I would have worked with in my previous career with the Defence Forces.
“They will have done their homework on Dublin and left no stone unturned ” No doubt, but it will not be near enough.
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