Friday 28 October 2016

Dubs expecting a wild card

Gavin believes his team are 'adaptable enough' to face anything Donegal bring

Dublin manager Jim Gavin during a press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin during a press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Jim Gavin might reasonably have assumed he could move on from 2014 and that defeat to Donegal after Dublin won last year's All-Ireland.

It was, it seemed, the hidden context to all his 2015 press conferences.

What had Dublin learned? How had they changed? Was it enough?

Yesterday, at his pre-All-Ireland quarter-final press conference, he got another blast of it.

Which was, in many ways, inevitable.

That loss remains his only Championship defeat in three and-a-half years as Dublin manager.

We've heard enough of his respectful odes to the defeated to last us a lifetime.

Indeed, it stands alone as the only significant loss of his highly decorated tenure so far.

Plus, it's Donegal again on Saturday for the first time in a Championship since they ran riot on Dublin's last attempt to retain Sam Maguire. So understandably, Gavin came fully prepped.

That defeat did not, Gavin insisted, change the way he thought about the game, even if his team emerged for the following year with notable modifications.

If Dublin learned something from it, that's only because they attempt to do so from every match they play, Gavin repeated, though he finally relented and admitted it was the single biggest education for the group since he took over.

"I think players might look at it that way," Gavin conceded.

"Obviously there's an emotional element when you lose a championship game. As a player, experiencing that, it's not a nice feeling."


"I suppose as a concept, we try to keep improving because we know if we remain static, the game plan we used in '13, '14 and '15 isn't good enough because players and opposition teams will see that.

"So we have to have tweaks in our game plan on a consistent basis.

"If we don't, we know that teams will evolve beyond us and we will remain static. We've got to keep going."

That process of incessant review and intended improvement, Gavin explained: "makes you more resilient, makes you stronger.

"So each of those games that we've played, whether you win or otherwise, the process remains the same."

The 'revenge' curveball was then tossed in Gavin's direction and typically, he knocked it straight back.

If there are people within the Dublin camp plotting vengence, Gavin isn't one.

"That wouldn't be the culture now, that kind of negative energy," he began.

"We would be very much espousing the positives, going after our game-plan.

"What is in the past is in the past, we have never anchored ourselves in the past and that including the games that we have won. We have never looked back.

"We have learnt the lessons and boxed them away, try to put them into practice, move onto the next game.

"That's the process we have always gone through.

"So certainly we have never looked back and if we did, we would be looking at a completely different Donegal team to the one that is going to be playing.

"Yeah the system, there are some commonalities," Gavin accepted, "but Rory is a very innovative coach and we expect something innovative from him on Saturday."

Gavin, it seems, is like most people insofar as he's expecting something new, some tactical nuance from Donegal on Saturday.

How does he prepare a team for a bolt from the unknown while remaining loyal to their own game-plan?

"Our core philosophy and probably our strength is that we've always looked at our game and if we can get our game right I think we're adaptable enough to change to circumstances within games," Gavin explained.

"And if we can get our game-plan right and our process right, well then hopefully we'll get the performance.

"If that happens then hopefully we'll get the result.

"What other coaches do, we'll discuss it, but it's completely outside our control," the Dublin manager added.

"We can't dictate how other teams will set up against us because in the game of Gaelic football you can put players anywhere you want on the park.

"All we need to do is try to implement our game-plan. That's been the most of our work for the last two weeks."

It would, you imagine, be remiss of Dublin not to have worked on their defending of high balls on top of their full-back line given the likelihood of Michael Murphy spending a significant portion of his time alongside on Saturday.

"He's technically an excellent player, very physical, great ball-winner, a great leader for them," Gavin concluded.

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