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Sunday 25 September 2016

Gavin: We will always focus on attack

Dubs boss points out performances 'don't just happen' as his Dublin team contend with red-hot favourites billing

Dublin’s Bernard Brogan tries to power his way past Westmeath’s Kevin Maguire in last July’s Leinster SFC final. Picture: Tomás Greally / SPORTSFILE
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan tries to power his way past Westmeath’s Kevin Maguire in last July’s Leinster SFC final. Picture: Tomás Greally / SPORTSFILE
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

When Stephen Cluxton hoisted Sam Maguire for the first time as Dublin captain in 2013 and worked his way methodically down the list of thank-yous as far as Jim Gavin, he let slip his manager's most used coaching mantra.

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

It's 8am on a Thursday in the Gibson Hotel in Dublin's IFSC.

Gavin is present to answer questions for the media ahead of the Leinster SFC and repetition is the order of the morning here, too.

Perception

Partly, because no-one is expecting this match to be anything other than a routine Dublin win in this, their provincial fiefdom and partly, because this perception doesn't change Gavin's approach to preparing his team in any discernable way.

But if this part of the gig has gotten tedious, he doesn't let on.

Each straight-batted, very much on-the-cuff, answer comes coated in the same thought and precision it did in 2013, '14, or '15.

Gavin seems utterly convinced that Sunday can be a contest. So he's asked why.

"Whatever people would say about the chance of either team, from our perspective, it's not something we take much credence of, we can't," he shrugs.

A stance which encapsulates Gavin's attitude.

If there is any concern for Dublin from their supporters, it's that they might leave Leinster without having their kinks exposed.

The unpolished display against a mischievous Fermanagh team last year and a rocky, somewhat ill-disciplined performance against Mayo in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final thereafter fuels this half-fear.

"The concern I have is Westmeath," Gavin insists.

"And beyond that, we know we have one game after that and who that will be against, we won't know until the final whistle is blown in the Leinster final."

This attitude is precisely why Dublin haven't looked like being caught in Leinster since Gavin took over.

The seriousness with which Gavin treats opponents is Cody-esque, even those unworthy of such treatment.

"That performance against Meath and against Laois just doesn't happen," he points out.

"A lot of work goes in by the players, by the management team, the coaching staff and the support team.

"Teams just don't turn up and win games, a lot of hard work goes on in the shadows before that."

The other issue Gavin regular contends with in these types of fora with the GAA hackery is that of styles.

The challenge of dissembling the bulksome defences against which they play almost every match and the act of striking a balance in his own team's setup between the need to score and the requirement not to concede.

"Most of the teams we play against have 13 men behind the ball for most parts of the game," he confirms, repeating his belief that there is "no right way or wrong way to play football".

"Coaches are just doing the best for their teams," Gavin continues.

Principles

"They are setting their teams out with what they see to be the best fit for them to get a performance.

"If that means putting men behind the ball and compressing space . . ."

There might not be a wrong way, but there is certainly a Jim Gavin way.

Or, the Dublin way, as he sees it.

And even if he was inclined to go against it, Gavin reckons he is duty-bound to uphold its principles. With U21 teams not nearly so well endowed with talent as this current senior team, he employed similar methods.

"We are all about expression and we always have been, that bit of creativity," he explains.

"You will have missed passes and missed shots but that's what we like to do.

"To destroy a bit you need to be defensive as well but in the main we like to be creative and expressive and let the players enjoy their football.

"Maybe one of their strengths is their resilience, because it hasn't been a straight line for them.

"It has been bumpy and sport is not a straight line, it is not linear.

"There are twists and turns, and there will be plenty of twists and turns in this season, players know that themselves.

"Obviously there needs to be a balance there we need to control the game and have a defensive structure too.

Natural

"Most team want to compress the space and counter-attack into the space you leave behind.

"Its about trying to get that balance," he suggests.

"We haven't got it right (always).

"It's that consistency that we are always striving to get towards.

"But," Gavin adds, "as long as I have the baton anyway, we will always play as an attack-based team."

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