Eamon Carr: Gavin has blueprint for Dubs success
Ambition, workrate and Jim's pinch of salt
While the bonfires were being lit and the banners unfurled by the Westmeath lakes yesterday evening, Kildare manager Jason Ryan was caught in a living nightmare.
Such are the contrasting fortunes our ancient traditions are built on. While the Kildare folk were bandaging their psychic wounds last night, Brendan Shine and the bards of Westmeath were sharpening their quills with epic verses about the glory of Tom Cribben's men.
Yet, despite the rout that saw Dublin put Kildare to the sword with a 19 point defeat, manager Jim Gavin was in sober and reflective mood when he emerged from the victors' changing room.
"It was an all-round good performance," he said, stating what a cynic might term the bleedin' obvious. "To get 4-14 from play is pleasing. Overall a good day at the office. We're just delighted to get through to a Leinster final. It means a lot to us."
The other 1-4 came from free kicks. It's testament to this Dublin team's industry and talent that they didn't require a single comfortable score from a free to see off Kildare's challenge.
For a man in the hot seat of perennial Dublin expectation, Gavin wears the pressures well. He's calm under fire and reluctant to offer hostages to fortune. Asked whether Darragh Ó Sé's mischievous, and dangerous, comments about hobbling Dublin forward Diarmuid Connolly, whose contribution to the scoreboard yesterday was a noteworthy 2-03, might have concerned him, Gavin replied diplomatically, "I learned a long time ago that when Kerry talk about other counties, I take it with a pinch of salt."
Diarmuid did find himself in a minor contretemps in the second half but survived. "It's a physical contact sport and we have to ensure that we always have that, that the rules don't take that element away from it," cautioned the manager. "In those exchanges, our guys held their ground, which is what we expect them to do. That was satisfying. Discipline is one of core philosophies," he stressed. "Everything's based around that. I'm satisfied that they held their discipline."
The way Jim sees it, there's a job to be done. One game at a time. He'll be looking at Westmeath's form and, as he said, "go hard at it for the next couple of weeks."
But as the late afternoon shadows crept across the pitch, with Alan Brogan appearing all over the place like a sprite, dazzling with his positional sense, his mercurial runs and his awareness and accuracy, the weight of Jim Gavin's job hit home.
As with every boxer with world title ambitions, shadow-boxing is easy. Knocking out opponents who aren't in the rankings is taken as a given. The crucial performances are the ones against the mandatory or highly ranked contenders.
Whatever Jim might say about the dangers posed by every inter-country team, with all respect to Longford and Kildare, it's probably fair to say we're unlikely to be seeing either one in an All Ireland final anytime soon.
It might have looked like a stroll in the park to the casual observer, but Jim's critical faculties are forever tuned to nuance.
Yesterday he learned that "players have a lot of ambition and a great desire to play for the county. There's a lot of fatigued players in the Dublin dressing room at this very moment.
"Looking at them, they're quite exhausted from the efforts from today. To see them applying themselves for the full seventy minutes, from a coaching perspective, is satisfying."
Yes, indeed, it was great to see Michael Darragh Macauley, Alan Brogan and Rory O'Carroll look in such fine form on their return.
"No one players is greater than the team effort," said Jim. "It's tough on the guys who didn't get game time today. They deserve it just as much."
"We don't hand out the jerseys," he added about the twenty-one players who got a run.
"They have to earn it."
With a Leinster final clash with Westmeath next on the agenda, Jim is expecting his panel to keep the pedal to the metal.
"To get a performance there's a certain process we need to go through," he declared, alluding to the secret alchemy that has forged this formidable machine.
"Behind it all, there's a lot of hard work by the players. They're a very driven bunch. They wear that tag very lightly.
"They understand that it's all about the next game and there are no guarantees in their sport. They just need to work hard and hope that they put themselves in a position to win games."