herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

dubs cast out net

Gavin is playing long game this spring

THE League, largely, is about priorities.

Dublin, for example, have won both of the last two Division 1 titles. What value a three-peat is debatable.

Donegal, meanwhile, are recently promoted and with a win already on the board, can extend their spring campaign for a game (or two) if they attain some class of consistency now.

Dublin are in year three with Jim Gavin.

Donegal, in their maiden season under Rory Gallagher, although familiarity on both sides is deep.

malfunction

The Dubs are seeking to repair the devastation of a public malfunctioning of an element of the system that brought then both the 2013 All-Ireland and a reputation as Gaelic football's most electrifying team.

Donegal are recuperating from an All-Ireland loss, when a fatal dose of their own medicine was rammed directly down their throats.

Dublin play Offaly or Longford in their Championship opener on May 31. Donegal face Tyrone in theirs on May 17.

Which is why, at best, reading deeply into League results can be equivalent of embarking on a fool's errand.

Gavin said it himself this week.

Speaking at a promotional event, the Dublin boss underpinned the evidence of the previous Sunday in Páric Uí Rinn, when his team finished with an unusually young/experimental composition, by stressing where his priorities lay for tonight's visit of Donegal.

"There is a certain group of players we want to give more game-time to," he said. "We have a longer term project for the team."

All of which makes eminent sense.

The League, or at least this early part of it, is about auditions for Dublin, rather than victories, even if a defeat tonight would leave them pointless and a minor mountain to scale to qualify for the semi-finals.

"We're not thinking that way," says Shane Carthy, one of those currently impressing in said auditions.

endowed

"It's just another game. We'd be confident enough going into it. It's early on in the year, we're working on things.

"It is early on in the year and lads are getting the chance."

Carthy, more than most.

Understandably too.

While both Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O'Sullivan are recent All Stars, Gavin isn't particularly well endowed with back-up in this position. Which is why the return of Denis Bastick - and that of Carthy after his struggles with depression last year - are wholly welcome developments.

As it the emergence of Emmet Ó Conghaile.

"To supporters I understand it's revenge and everything but to us it's another game," Carthy insists.

"Obviously we're trying to bounce back from the disappointment of last week.

"We wouldn't have that on our mind. It's just another game and it's a chance to impress again with new lads coming in. That's the way we'd be thinking.

"We're working at the moment," Carthy adds, "it's a long year ahead so we'll be looking at it come championship time in May."

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