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Saturday 23 September 2017

Gavin: Tyrone won Ulster at a canter

Harte's men made 'big statement' says Dublin manager

Dublin manager Jim Gavin following a press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin yesterday. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin following a press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin yesterday. Pic: Sportsfile

Jim Gavin pointed out yesterday that no side that had scored 6-77 in four Championship matches could be exclusively labelled 'defensive'.

His context was obvious.

"To retain any provincial title is a fair achievement," the Dublin manager suggested at his pre All-Ireland semi-final press conference, "but to retain it in the style that they did, at a canter, is a big statement - particularly when Ulster is such a competitive province.

"Probably, Tyrone's development, we know how good they are defensively and they have a great defensive system.

"They have been putting up big scores and they're a free-scoring team now - 6-77 in four Championship games is a mighty impressive tally."

Dublin’s Cormac Costello kicks one of his late match-winning points under pressure from Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin and Brendan Harrison in last year’s All-Ireland SFC final replay. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Cormac Costello kicks one of his late match-winning points under pressure from Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin and Brendan Harrison in last year’s All-Ireland SFC final replay. Pic: Sportsfile

Not that Gavin predicted any slinging of guns on Sunday week when his team and Mickey Harte's do battle in the Championship for the first time in his spectacularly successful reign as Dublin manager.

Evolution

Defending, Gavin pointed out, was the "cornerstone," of Tyrone's recent resurgence, although their evolution to "an exceptional good counter-attacking team," had completed their arsenal.

"We've always looked at them as having a big scoring threat; even going back to our National League game in early February this year, they looked very impressive going forward and they got a great goal in that game," he explained.

"If you look at their Championship games - it has been so, so impressive from them. They are just a modern football team and they have been very impressive."

Gavin's reluctance to discuss Diarmuid Connolly meanwhile, or the extent of his involvement in the match grew more painfully apparent with every enquiry.

Indeed each Connolly query met with the law of diminishing returns from the Dublin manager.

Question: Diarmuid Connolly is available again after his suspension Jim, is he in contention to start?

Jim Gavin: Yeah, we just have to wait and see as we get closer to the game.

"How has he been going since the Carlow game?"

"Yeah, he's doing his own thing."

"Has he been allowed train with Dublin?"

"As I said, he is doing his own thing."

"So he hasn't been with you?"

"Yeah, he is on his own programme, yeah."

"But obviously you've been keeping a close eye on him?"

"We have been, obviously, yeah."

"Can a player who hasn't played competitive for 12 weeks be parachuted into an All-Ireland semi-final?"

"We'll just have to wait and see."

So that, largely, was that.

Gavin stonewalled the Connolly question after Dublin's victory over Monaghan so his demeanour yesterday shouldn't have come as a surprise.

He was also asked a more general, Connolly-ish question relating to the GAA's disciplinary system and whether anything had happened in either code since his explosive defence of Connolly after the Westmeath match to back up the theories he aired that day.

"I'm not going to get into that today," he batted back. "My focus is purely on Tyrone and whatever happened in the past is gone for us now and the team's focus is purely on a massive challenge against Tyrone in an All-Ireland semi-final."

Other than that, there was plenty of non-specific analysis of Tyrone and the sort of full-health injury bulletin Gavin habitually delivers at this advanced part of the football year.

Speaking about Paul Flynn and Michael Darragh Macauley - both of whom made their summer bows as substitutes against Monaghan last time out - Gavin denied either had received game-time for any reason other than both having earned it.

"We don't hand out jerseys," he explained, "both of them earned the right to return to the field of play based on what we saw in front of our eyes in training.

"So they've been training really well over the last number of weeks. They got those jerseys on merit," he added.

"(The) biggest strength of this team is their sense of collective and they understand that they're the sum of their parts and Paul and Michael Darragh came in and did their bit."

Diligently

"They were both very focused on getting back," Gavin went on.

"It's been a long road for both of them, as it has been for a number of players.

"Cormac Costello is back now as well, he's worked really diligently at his return to play.

"It's probably just a reflection of the hard work that both of them have put in," Gavin added, "but they've been both very focused."

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