Monday 18 February 2019

McCaffrey and O'Sullivan both return to the fray in timely double boost for Gavin

Jack McCaffrey in action for Dublin. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Jack McCaffrey in action for Dublin. Photo: SPORTSFILE

All told, not a bad day at the office for Jim Gavin.

The good news? He got competitive game-time into the legs of Jack McCaffrey (for the first time since he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Mayo last September) and Cian O'Sullivan (for the first time since he dislocated his shoulder against Kerry in March).

Both All Star incumbents came off the bench at a time when victory over Longford was already in the bag: McCaffrey replaced Jonny Cooper, who was on a yellow card, at half-time; O'Sullivan came on for James McCarthy on 54 minutes.

"He (McCaffrey) hasn't played a representative fixture yet, but he's been playing in the background with us for a number or weeks, as Cian has as well," Gavin explained. "So, great to see them back on the pitch and they played their part in the second half, absolutely."

Less promising was the exit of Stephen Cluxton, who wasn't fit to resume after being caught mid-air by James McGivney's red-card challenge.

"We'll review that over the next 24 to 48 hours and just assess the situation," said Gavin of his stricken captain.

Even though a photo of Cluxton walking into the nearby Mater Hospital later appeared on Twitter, his manager didn't sound overly concerned about the injury. "Just got a blow to the lower back, I think," he said.

As for the tackle that precipitated his departure, Gavin said: "Being very honest about it, hard to see from the angle I had on the '45' on the other half. But, em, just a mid-air collision, that's all I saw. These things happen."

He was more effusive on the subject of Evan Comerford's unexpected senior SFC debut.

"We gave Evan the opportunity to see the game out and I thought he did well when he was there," Gavin remarked.

"We can see his progress on the training field. He's been working really hard with (coach) Josh Moran and Stephen. You can see he's very diligent, applies himself really well and he's got a great attitude.

"I think you saw, there was a seamless transition which is a credit to Evan, to his application over the last, not only number of weeks but number of months and years."

Overall, the Dublin boss expressed satisfaction with a routine job efficiently done.

But it wasn't quite foot-perfect for the perfectionist boss.

"Some of our kick-passing, hand-passing was a little bit off today," he noted. "Contrast that with the scoring opportunities that we created which was very positive - 2-20 maybe from play, that's good to see. The guys themselves will look at that tape and they'll see areas to improve. We're just happy we got through the game and looking forward now to the challenge of Laois.

"Four goals the last day, we possibly could have got one or two more today - but at least we're creating them and that's the most positive thing. If we weren't you'd be a little bit concerned. That gives us something to take away to the training field over the next two weeks."

Any further debate about the 'state of Leinster football' was left to Gavin's counterpart. "There's a lot of talk about it, we can only deal with ourselves," Denis Connerton reflected.

"I've referred to it before - in Leinster, Dublin is this big monster that looms over everybody. And they are. The system - we all know the provincial system is imbalanced.

"How do you explain to some alien that comes down to Earth that there's 12 counties and 11 of them play football in one province and five or six play in others and nine play in another. How you do explain that and say it's an equal competition? It sure as hell isn't," he added.

"If you want to continue with the provincial system, you've got to share the counties out equally. That has to be the starting point."

Connerton concluded: "There weren't too many people giving us any hope of winning. There were a lot of people in Lourdes and Lough Derg praying for us - obviously prayer that doesn't work. But we're back in our favourite competition, we're back in the qualifiers."

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