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Monday 11 December 2017

Jumping Jack flash

Gavin full of praise for 'skilful' McCaffrey

Dublin's Jack McCaffrey. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Dublin's Jack McCaffrey. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

GOALS are to the Dublin football team what oxygen is to human beings. They need them to live, to survive and to thrive.

There is something a little edgy about Dublin prior to scoring a goal, a bit tense around the shoulders and not quite confident enough.

The crowd, the Hill, their energy seems just that bit more strained and anxious until such time as they hit the net and then – and only then – does the whole thing flow with much more freedom and certainty.

Which is just as well, because they seem to be on course to set a world record for the number of goal chances created in a single championship season, even if too large a percentage are being passed up for them to truly realise all that scintillating potential just yet.

By our estimation (and bear in mind, even the entire Sunday Game analysis team lost count in the second half against Kildare), Jim Gavin's marauders have created upwards of 25 clear goal-scoring opportunities in their last three championship matches, taking seven.

Easy on the eye, compelling, admirable ... if still just a little too wasteful in the context of their ultimate ambition.

"There were times... they could have gotten frustrated by some of the goal opportunities that they did create and they didn't take, but they kept at it," reflected Gavin afterwards.

"There is no one thing I could put my finger on," he added of their failure to add to Jack McCaffrey's lone goal. "My mantra to them is to keep creating the opportunities and keep their composure and patience.

"We've always said we give the players a framework to play within and it's up to them to express themselves. There is no particular rule on bearing down on goal, whether they should pass or take a shot.

"They are all highly intelligent men and they have good game intelligence. That's it."

None more so than McCaffrey who, in his maiden starting season, is delivering something of an annus mirabilis.

It's not pushing it any way into the realms of fancy to suggest that McCaffrey might have had a hat-trick from left half-back, a fact which should in no way deflect attention from his mighty and primary work in defence.

The boy's a little bit special.

"I obviously worked with him at Under-21 level and seen his capabilities and his potential," stated his manager. "We played him all through most of the National League games and he's developed. He's a very intelligent man.

"Very mature and grounded, as are all the Dublin team and it's a pleasure to work with them in that regard. He's no different in that facet. He's a very skilful player. We take a skill-based approach and all the work we do on the park is skill-based. So it's good to see him bringing those skills into the game."

And his finish into perhaps the only corner of the goal left to aim at?

"Fantastic finish. Really top drawer. Alan Quirke is an outstanding goalkeeper and to beat him, one on one, is no fair achievement."

Speaking of world records, we reckon too that Stephen Cluxton might just have set a landmark in the amount of distance covered by a goalkeeper in a single match.

Six converted placed balls, one wide and one dropped short ensured that he had his busiest day beyond the sanctity of his own goal. Furthermore, his reticence to eulogise remains undimmed.

The toughest challenge Dublin have faced so far this year?

"Probably is, yeah," added Gavin.

Why so?

"Just as the games go on, you're obviously going to get the next challenge. They're going to be tougher and tougher."

Fair enough.

Special mention went to Dublin's midfield pairing, an area attracting much scepticism thus far this summer, but a bastion of strength on Saturday night, one which dominated Cork's most celebrated sector.

And Gavin insisted he

was satisfied with the work of his full-back line, under an aerial bombardment which inflicted some collateral damage.

"I thought they coped with it admirably," he said.

Opportunities

"They were against one of the best six forwards in the game that Cork have. Give any of those guys half a foot and they'll punish you. I thought they limited the opportunities that Cork had."

Four weeks now until Kerry and all the hoopla that particular fixture will attract but it is wholly admirable that Gavin has stuck so stoically to his guns tactically and, in fairness, in how his team disport themselves on the football pitch.

Whether his utopian vision will be good or practical enough to land them an All-Ireland, everyone who watches them is sure going to have a lot of fun finding out.

"I think it was a very honest game of football, the way I believe it should be played," he insisted.

"I wasn't surprised because from my involvement with the Under 21s, they (Cork) play the same way as ourselves. There was no cynicism out there today."

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