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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Gavin: Dubs learn and move on

Defensive display pleases manager

Diarmuid Connolly in action for Dublin during the Leinster SFC semifinal against Meath at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly in action for Dublin during the Leinster SFC semifinal against Meath at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnacha Tobin of Meath in action against Cian O’Sullivan of Dublin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"Any day a Dublin man can walk away from a Dublin/Meath challenge with a 10 point win," Jim Gavin reckoned, "that's a good day at the office."

This was roughly as much charity as Dublin gave Meath yesterday: empty platitudes.

Because it was as good or bad a day at the office as any of these monotonously routine mid-summer victories ever are.

Meath, despite having all that sparky history, have become an irrelevance in the modern era.

Dublin came to Croke Park yesterday, dipped a toe into the pond to measure the temperature and having absorbed all Meath's best stuff by half-time dived straight in and killed the game as impressively and efficiently as they have become renowned for.

Decent

So cruelly excellent are Dublin in the rounds before they have to meet one of the few and lessening numbers of teams who can give them a decent game for 70 minutes, we tend to jump on any little errors, any possible flaws and blow them up for microscopic examination.

In Nowlan Park a couple of weeks ago, Laois scored two goals.

Aha! They're fallible!

The national obsession with these slips, particularly in games in which his team win handsomely, seems to amuse Gavin somewhat.

"First off, you are always going to concede goals in championship," he pointed out, with some reason.

"You are playing against the elite of every county. Teams want to score goals so it's no surprise that we concede them.

"It's part of our sport. But that gave us the opportunity to grow again, to talk about it and ultimately, from that experience, to become stronger.

"That's what we want from every game and every session - a chance to grow.

"We know if we remain static, teams will pass us by.

"So we have to keep trying to learn from every game, every session and every meeting."

"We had a good structure there. I thought the boys played well there in defence. It was a good overall defensive performance by the team.

"They obviously have players who can win high ball in the forward line.

"But they also have pace and I thought they attacked us hard, particularly in the first half, with support runners.

"But I think we coped quite well. And shut them down. So we'll take that any day.

In these situations, Gavin is inscrutable. By way of proof, even the Kerry football fraternity don't really know what to make of his ice-cool, say-nothing-loose demeanour.

If Gavin felt certain players were beneath the standard required yesterday, well...he wasn't going to use a 10 minute chin wag with a room of journalists as the time to vent his feelings.

If any element of his game plan looked rickety, chances are he'd save it for a more intimate audience.

"It is easy to destroy, it is harder to create," he noted, when pressed on the fact that against every team - perhaps even Kerry this year - his side will come against some version of a massed defence.

"That creation against that defence, they were patient and they probed and we were still able to create chances against that.

"There was a shower of rain in the first-half, which made it more difficult shooting into the canal end but I thought our guys never looked out of control and they responded to any challenge that Meath put up.

"To get to a provincial final was our main objective and we've got that now, he added.

"They set up as we thought they would. In the main with 13 men behind the ball. But I thought we showed good patience to probe and to find gaps in that defence.

"We had lots of opportunities to score in the first half and didn't take them."

The upshot is Dublin are now preparing for a Leinster final against Westmeath - a Division 4 team as of next year.

It will, if Dublin do what is expected of them, be their sixth Leinster title in a row, their 10th in 11 years.

Respect

You couldn't set odds high enough that anyone will back Westmeath.

"They're opinions. They're someone's subjective thoughts on the game," Gavin considered.

"Every sport, every code, there are no guarantees. You have to go out and give a performance. We'll give Westmeath the same respect we give every team.

"We approach the games very intentful, we give everyone respect and we take absolutely nothing for granted.

"We just try to live in the moment.

"If we do that," Gavin concluded, "then essentially I've done my job."

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