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Sunday 19 November 2017

A pair of true blue bloods

They may operate in very different codes but Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Dublin manager Jim Gavin have a lot in common when it comes to the pursuit of success

Dublin football manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin football manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Sportsfile

They're operating in different sporting codes, but the similarities are uncanny.

Dublin and Manchester City have a lot in common. They're both blue bloods.

One amateur. One professional. They're teams with illustrious histories and promising futures.

While the differences are obvious, a unifying core principle remains the same. A quest for honour and glory.

They share a common blueprint. A drive founded on discipline, team cohesion, individual brilliance and strength in depth.

Manchester City chief Pep Guardiola. Photo: AP
Manchester City chief Pep Guardiola. Photo: AP

Both have head coaches who are cut from the same cloth. Men who've created a culture of excellence. Men who're hailed as inspiring leaders and innovative tacticians relentless in the pursuit of an ideal.

Today, both teams are in poll position as they compete for honours in the current season.

Having won their fourth Championship title in six years, Dublin have their sights set on defeating Tyrone and moving up to contest another All-Ireland final.

Since purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, Manchester City have won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup once and the League Cup twice. This season, they are many pundits' favourite for domestic honours.

As with Dublin, many cite strength in depth as being Manchester City's distinguishing characteristic.

Both teams have a bench of supersubs who can come on and change a game - or put the finishing touches to a win by demolishing what's left of the opposition's spirit.

In the first game of their season last week against Brighton, Man City had £207 million's worth of talent in the dugout.

Guardiola let Yaya Toure sit this one out. And Benjamin Mendy, a £52m signing, wasn't even on the bench.

When confronted with a dogged mass defence, Guardiola waited until well into the second half before bringing on Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and, then as a coup de grace, Bernardo Silva.

If you need a definition of a dynamic power trio, you got it right there.

Devastating

Brighton must have felt a bit like Kildare in the Leinster final as they watched Dublin bring Bernard Brogan, Kevin McManamon and Shane Carthy into an already devastating attacking formation.

While their detractors complain about the wealth at the disposal of both teams, it's up to the managers to work with what they've got.

At the highest level it's always about the fine margins and in Guardiola and Gavin we have two men with the vision, self-belief and street smarts required to construct a formidable squad and maximise its potential.

As a player with Barcelona, Guardiola won 16 trophies over 12 seasons.

As a member of the victorious 1995 Dublin team, Gavin has won at the highest level in Gaelic football.

Knowing what it takes to win, both men had cut their coaching teeth before taking the top job.

Gavin had built a flourishing All-Ireland winning U-21 Dublin squad. Guardiola road-tested his ideas as head coach with Barcelona B before replacing Frank Rijkaard as manager of the senior squad in 2008.

Guardiola won La Liga in three of his four seasons at Camp Nou and took the Champions League title twice. When he moved to Bayern Munich, he completed a hat-trick of Bundesliga titles in his three seasons with the club.

Jim Gavin's Dublin side has lifted Sam Maguire three times in four campaigns. This year they're aiming to add a fourth title and make it three-in-a-row.

Statistics are just a summary of the hard graft that's done at the coalface of greatness. The head coach is the person who inspires and supervises.

In both Gavin and Guardiola, we have men of quiet authority who bring a laser-like intensity to the task, spearheading organisations and routines that have set the benchmark in their sports.

Both men prefer to perform their duties in the privacy of the training ground.

Both men speak to the media before and after matches. But don't expect a one-on-one with either. That's not what they're in the game for.

Specialist

Both insist on controlling all aspects of their team's preparations and performance and surround themselves with specialist staff to supervise everything from nutrition to fitness and skills training.

Both are clear in their tactical instructions and leave no ambiguity. Nothing is left to chance.

"Pep doesn't just give you orders," Gerard Pique has said. "He also explains why."

Officer material in the military, Gavin has been a flying instructor. He knows how to communicate clearly and concisely.

Both men understand the importance of key players and, while remaining tactically flexible, construct strategies around pivotal figures.

While both show a belief in fast, attacking football, neither man is averse to taking a risk. One that is carefully calculated to meet the needs of a particular situation.

Their interest and involvement in their game is extraordinary and, some might say, verges on the obsessional.

Having been allowed to remodel his squad, much is expected of Guardiola in his second year in the Premier League.

The return of All-Star Diarmuid Connolly means Jim Gavin has a full squad ahead of meeting Tyrone.

As they've shown, Gavin and Guardiola can absorb the pressure and be winners.

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