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Saturday 19 October 2019

'I'd be worried if I was Jim Gavin but they'll do the five'

Eugene McGee with Dubs legends Jimmy Keaveney and Paddy Cullen
Eugene McGee with Dubs legends Jimmy Keaveney and Paddy Cullen

Eugene McGee was the manager who stopped it. Now, in his last interview on the subject of five-in-a-rows, he was being asked for his opinion on whether the current Dublin team could reach a destination that eluded Kerry 37 years ago.

The former Offaly boss, who died suddenly last Sunday week, could see the many pitfalls facing Jim Gavin's history-chasers. Ultimately, though, he was swayed to believe Dublin will make history.

"I think they will do it," he said, "because he has the manpower to do it as well. Ah, they've enough variation in their game.

"Now, he has made an art of winning All-Irelands by tight margins," he expanded. "They've covered everything that's ever been done in football, all the options, all the tactics - they've dealt with them all. In summary, the record of Dublin this last four or five years is outstanding. The fact they won the matches tight, to me it's a badge of honour really, more than if they won them easily."

The man who led Offaly to the holy grail sat down with The Herald last month for a pre-championship interview on the subject of 1982, the most famous All-Ireland final of them all, but also the challenges facing Dublin this summer. He would sadly pass away before the interview went to print.

But his thoughts on what Gavin has achieved, and the obstacles he now faces, were fascinating.

"I don't know would Offaly have been rated as high-risk for Kerry," he mused, harking back to '82. "There's nobody going to be high-risk to beat Dublin this year. Even Mayo, I don't think, unless Mayo burn the place up ... so, it's hard to see.

"But I'd be worried if I was Gavin. I would really be worried, because a good few of the players are over the 30 mark, for a start. And motivation is their problem now. When you win four, if it wasn't a magical figure it would be just another All-Ireland."

On a more positive note, he added: "It's a big challenge for Jim Gavin, there's no doubt about that. I'd say he's well able to ride the challenge because he's a highly intelligent man … he's above the ordinary, he's not an ordinary Joe Soap."

If Dublin are to be stopped, who did he view as the county most likely to 'do an Offaly' on them? "You'd have to say Mayo because our path was fairly similar to Mayo," he surmised, reflecting on Offaly's incremental climb to the summit.

And what of his old rivals from the south?

Watching Kerry in the recent Allianz League final, they had appeared to his eye "too immature to win a national title". But this was "understandable", given their youth.

"They have three or four players to stitch in ... it could make a big difference," he went on. "If it was a Dublin/Kerry final, the willpower behind Kerry people would be colossal, psychologically. And half of the Kerry people are in Dublin. It would be one of the great finals of all time."

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