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Thursday 17 October 2019

Gavin wipes slate clean for final after devastating performance

LOOKING FORWARD: Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Pic: Sportsfile
LOOKING FORWARD: Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Pic: Sportsfile

Given it was, by unanimous consensus in Croke Park on Saturday, the best, most devastating twelve minutes of football any of us had ever seen, it seemed pertinent to ask Jim Gavin whether his team's early second-half performance was the best his team had produced in his reign.

If only for confirmation.

From the throw-in, Michael Darragh Macauley fisted the ball towards Dean Rock, who was fouled by Chris Barrett.

It was a simple tap-over for Rock but it reduced Dublin's arrears to a point at a time when seemed as though Mayo had a psychological advantage in the match.

From there until the moment Paul Mannion, whose ball striking his summer has been nothing shy of extraordinary, kicked his fourth point to put Dublin 2-12 to 0-8 ahead, the standard and intensity of football the All-Ireland champions produced was at a level no-one had an immediate comparison for, given the importance of the match and quality of opposition.

SAVAGED: Michael Darragh MacAuley. Pic: Sportsfile
SAVAGED: Michael Darragh MacAuley. Pic: Sportsfile

"I'd need to reflect on that," responded Gavin when asked if the passage had represented peak Gavin-era Dublin, not inclined to give a straight but not ruling out the premise of the question either.

"In each moment of the game I'm not looking back on the past, I certainly won't be starting now.

Facets

"Certainly there's learning from that game, and that team are a very humble group as I mentioned so they'll search out those learnings in the game and that's one of their key strengths.

"They'll want to improve facets of their game that they have expectations that might not have been achieved today, so I would say next week will be interesting as they review the game."

They'll like what they see.

Brian Fenton, whose first-half performance didn't reflect his best work, savaged Robbie Hennelly's kickouts, in collaboration with Michael Darragh Macauley.

Con O'Callaghan torched Mayo's destroyer-in-chief Lee Keegan.

Mannion boomed points over from either wing, with Brendan Harrison unable to take any advantage out of knowing the Kilmacud Crokes forward was intent on kicking with his left.

Had they started with the same ferocity, it's not inconceivable that Dublin could have beaten their closest rivals of this decade by 20 points yesterday.

As to why they started so sluggishly, Gavin wasn't about to excavate too deeply for answers, other than to pay tribute to Mayo's defensive efficiency in that frenetic first half.

"I don't know how many times people need to see how good this Mayo team are," he sad.

"They didn't win today but I think we wouldn't see it that way. Definitely.

"They're a phenomenal group of players. I think you're just looking for excuses for the Dublin performance, Mayo were really top-class in the first half."

And so Dublin march towards an All-Ireland seemingly in better form and physical shape than they were in the other six finals they have been in this decade.

"The slate is wiped clean after today, the performance today was a collective group preparing and getting the team ready," said Gavin when asked about the bitterly unlucky Bernard Brogan's inability to make Saturday's match-day 26.

Leaders

"Just because a player isn't here on match day doesn't mean that doesn't influence his team-mates, they do.

There was no Rory O'Carroll or Eoghan O'Gara in the squad on Saturday either, meaning Gavin has some big players to put pressure on the rest of the squad over the next three weeks.

"It's just that we can only select 26 to represent the team," he stressed, "but make no mistake about it - there are outstanding leaders that weren't on the pitch today but are leading in the shadows of this team.

"And we are really fortunate to be able to have an outstanding group like that, who are all driven to really get Dublin to be its best.

"Of course they are disappointed, absolutely devastated when players; whatever about game time don't get on the match-day squad.

"But they are all driven to get Dublin to be its best."

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