Over a year unbeaten in league and championship and yet Jim Gavin still sees ample room for improvement.
It’s a sobering thought as the summer drains away and with it the last days of the championship’s annual Phoney War, but the Dublin manager has seen enough in their opening games against Laois and Meath to keep them occupied ahead of Sunday week’s Leinster final.
Though each outing ended in comfortable double-digit wins, there were periods in both when the Dubs clearly lapsed into a comfort zone that allowed their two provincial neighbours entertain thoughts of something other than heavy defeat.
That they didn’t pay for it is immaterial to Gavin. Though they remain favourites for a second All-Ireland title on the bounce, such flaws – sloppiness was the word put to him yesterday - will likely be punished with greater vigour by opponents as August and September swing by.
“I’d say probably a little inconsistent,” he suggested before Sunday week’s meeting with Westmeath. “That inconsistency is there. I thought against Meath, particularly in the opening quarter, we created a lot of chances. They played with nearly 13 men behind the ball.
“But we still created scoring opportunities. We didn’t take them which was the disappointing thing. That’s what we’ve been working on, on the training park over the last while. So if we can tighten up that end of it, I think the performances will improve.”
Criticism of Dublin, whether internal or external, is all moot at a time of year when they continue to remain untested and the sight of Donegal and Tyrone being pushed towards replays just to make an Ulster decider only highlights further the uncomplicated path for Gavin’s men in Leinster. There is nothing new in that.
Paul Caffrey and Pat Gilroy both faced a similar journey in their days over Dublin and it is testament to Gavin’s tenure no-one holds up the paucity of competition in Leinster as a factor that impedes loftier ambitions any more.
“That performance against Meath and against Laois just doesn’t happen,” said Gavin. “A lot of work goes in by the players, by the management team, the coaching staff and the support team. Teams just don’t turn up and win games.
“A lot of hard work goes on in the shadows before that and Laois would have been very well prepared against us. Meath would have been very well prepared against us and I’m sure Westmeath will be very well prepared.”
Westmeath’s biggest concern as they do just that is key forward John Connellan who came off injured in the provincial semi-final defeat of Kildare with a leg injury that looks like leaving him a doubt almost up to throw-in on Sunday week.
“I won’t push him because he’s not going to come forward or go back in fitness in that length of time, he just doesn’t put up weight,” said Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin.
“He is all up here, in his head. He is just incredible. If he doesn’t train until the Friday night and he tells me he is okay… “If he’s not in the programme then I can pick him so before I put in the programme on a Thursday morning I will ring him and he will make the call himself. Even if it is still 50-50 I will put him on the programme in the chance that he is fit to play.”
It is a notable amount of trust for any manager to have in a player ahead of such a significant fixture but Cribbin can ill afford to do without his leadership qualities on and off the pitch. His brother Ray, meanwhile, has been passed fit despite concerns over a foot injury.
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