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Sunday 24 September 2017

Gavin has always put Dublin first

Some recent criticism of Jim has been way off the mark

Dublin manager Jim Gavin with Stephen Cluxton
Dublin manager Jim Gavin with Stephen Cluxton
Jim Gavin back in 1995

It's time we all started being honest about Jim Gavin. The past couple of weeks have featured a remarkable variety of comment and criticism of Jim, so much so that I'm starting to wonder what the real motivation behind it all is.

Now I'm well aware that by standing up for Diarmuid Connolly, Jim left himself open to condemnation.

That our levels of righteousness tend to spike when it involves a player from a county we don't happen to come from or like, just as Dublin people are naturally more inclined to defend Connolly.

And I appreciate that by having a go at RTÉ and Pat Spillane and partly blaming them for triggering a suspension that logically, probably should have been applied anyway, he left himself vulnerable to accusations of blind bias, of backing a player who had visibly sinned, whilst also shunning the GAA disciplinary system we all seem to hold in such high esteem.

What I can't get my head around since all this flared up is the amount of flak Jim has copped, stuff that has veered from patronising to downright insulting.

From what I can see, lots of people seem to have Jim all wrong. Maybe that's part of the aura he has.

No-one really knows what to make of Jim because he reveals so little of his personality, so they hop on these sort of issues and make judgements.

Dropped

Jim Gavin has always - always - put Dublin football first. As a player, as a coach and as a manager.

I'm speaking here as a former team-mate, as someone who was coached by him to an under-21 All-Ireland championship, managed by him for three years as a senior footballer and finally - in my last season for Dublin - having been dropped by Jim when honestly, I felt I should be playing.

He is as you see him - methodical, calculated and systematic.

He shows little emotion in interviews just as he shows almost none on the sideline, which is roughly the same amount he displays in the dressing-room.

That seems to wind people up but that's his way. And to condemn these methods is to ignore his results. His pedigree is beyond question, too.

Despite what some people seem to think, Jim Gavin was a hugely influential inter-county footballer, albeit in a time when Dublin were, at times, struggling for success.

In the past week, I've seen his inter-county career described as fleeting. Jim made his debut for Dublin in 1993. He played until 2003. That's a decent innings and good bit extra too.

What's more is he played until he was dropped by Tommy Lyons and to Jim's eternal credit, went straight in with Declan Darcy and coached our under-21s to Dublin's first All-Ireland at that grade that same year.

Not only did he lay all the foundations and do all the groundwork for that success, he was happy to step aside when Lyons came back in to manage the team on the week of matches.

In 1995, he played as a deep-lying wing-forward before deep-lying wing-forwards were in vogue, marking the opposition's biggest attacking threat from their half-back line, players like Meath's Graham Geraghty and Cork's Ciarán O'Sullivan.

In his latter years, he developed as a free-taker when Dublin were badly in need of one.

Someone former All-Ireland winner recently described Jim in print as an 'also ran' in the team he played for. Listen, take it from me, there's no such thing as an also-ran in an All-Ireland winning team. And if there is, Jim wasn't it.

Mossy Quinn never played in the 2011 All-final. Bryan Cullen and Barry Cahill both operated in roles not dissimilar to the one played by Jim in '95 and did the work of 100 men that season.

Is anyone going to suggest to me that these heroes of Dublin football were also-rans?

I've even seen a comment recently that Jim doesn't appreciate the value of the Dublin jersey, which is just totally ludicrous.

High regard

No man that I've ever played with or even met holds Dublin GAA in such high regard.

The Dublin dressing-room is regularly decorated with pictures of the great teams and of great players of the past.

Jim understands intrinsically the value of Dublin's tradition and has more respect and understanding of it than anyone.

When Jim took over, he continued David Hickey's involvement in the management setup and part of his reasoning was he wanted to maintain that association to the great team of the 1970s.

One of the foundations of his management style and the culture he generates in the dressing-room is the legacy of teams gone by. That whatever we achieved, we were serving a higher purpose than just ourselves. He places huge value in Dublin's tradition.

The facts are, Gavin is a leader in the truest definition of the word. He puts the team always before himself or his interests or his ego.

He has shunned all sorts of media attention and public exposure because he feels that's the best thing to do for his team.

And just in case anyone is in two minds, he has been hugely influential in Dublin's success since 2013. Yet he refuses to accept any credit whatsoever for it.

Anybody who feels Jim was wrong to defend his player doesn't understand management or why Jim is so good at it.

Jim believes in discipline, loyalty and honour but ultimately, like Éamonn Fitzmaurice and Mickey Harte, he understands that he will be judged on results.

Leave aside his reasons for doing so for a second, does anyone really care that he didn't do an interview with RTÉ?

If that's the sort of stuff that annoys, fair enough. Tweet away.

Some might not agree with his stance of publicly defending Diarmuid but none of us who have contributed to that saga over the past two weeks has any right to question Jim Gavin's management style, his leadership qualities or his values.

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