Monday 24 October 2016

Gavin: We have faith in our backs

Dublin manager insists his team will not compromise style to blunt star O'Shea

Dublin manager Jim Gavin Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin Pic: Sportsfile
Mayo star Aidan O'Shea Pic: Sportsfile

Jim Gavin says that Dublin "wont stray too far" from their tried and trusted methods in their attempts to curtail the influence of Aidan O'Shea, Mayo's irresistible attacking force this season.

Acknowledging that the erstwhile midfielder, enjoying an unprecedented and spectacular run of form as a forward in 2015, "is certainly the player getting attention," Gavin surmised that he and his management team "have confidence in our backs," and their ability to adequately deal with O'Shea's powerful presence where Donegal, Galway and Sligo have failed.

Memorably, Dublin - and in particular, Stephen Cluxton - rendered O'Shea's aptitude for fielding irrelevant in the 2013 All-Ireland final by dragging him all over the pitch as the Dublin 'keeper launched each of his kick-outs to every part of the Croke Park pitch other than the patches of grass in which O'Shea stood.

Though his utilisation this year by manager predominantly as an attacker has seen O'Shea's levels of influence grow exponentially.


"We play a particular brand of football and we wouldn't stray too far from that philosophy," Gavin pointed out.

"We base our core principles on attacking football and a very traditional style and we won't stray too far from that."

Words which may, given the Mayo match falls just a day before the one year anniversary of Gavin's only significant defeat as Dublin manager in last season's semi-final defeat to Donegal, be enough to perturb already-wary sky blue supporters this week.

But at various points in the season, Gavin's team have demonstrated the sort of tactical flexibility, particularly in defence, so visibly lacking when Donegal scored 3-14 in Croke Park.

"We'd always have various strategies in game, very subtle changes that people mightn't see," Gavin surmised.

"But they're always there and we just don't base our strategies on one particular plan, it's a concept we have and we won't stray too far from it."

Speaking of new-acquired defensive savvy, Mayo were almost buried under an avalanche of praise for their systematic marginalisation of Michael Murphy in their All-Ireland quarter-final a couple of weeks ago.

Where once, Ger Cafferkey and Tom Cunniffe were so scant of covering defenders as to appear practically naked, Mayo were able to screen both and still manage to score 2-13 against a team notorious for their powers of prevention.

"Most teams will adapt their strategy according to whatever game they're playing," observed Gavin of this ploy.


"Certainly at the elite level anyway.

"Teams are very flexible now and can move and shift from certain concepts and patterns to the next."

"I think," he continued, "Mayo will always play a traditional brand of football.

"They have the players to do it, very skilful players. Their backs are very comfortable on the ball and a strong traditional midfield unit.

"I think they won't stray too far from how Mayo have always played their football."

The Donegal match was seen as the test Dublin craved but Mayo got, even if the Connacht Champions made surprisingly easy work of it.

Dublin, meanwhile, had a sort of 'Carry On' quarter-final in which an easy win turned into an uncharacteristically sloppy final few minutes, even if their victory and this semi-final spot was never truly in jeopardy.

As Gavin acknowledged: "they punished us for a couple of lapses of concentration," in those closing stages.

"We only ever ask the players to be the best they can be and sometimes it works out for us, sometimes it doesn't," he added.

"In sport you'll lose more than you win, that's for sure. So it's all about on the day just trying to be the best they can be, represent themselves as best they can and we'll take whatever happens after that."

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