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Friday 6 December 2019

No boss could say no to this team of Sky Blue Ferraris says Carr

Former boss hails Gavin's 'courage' to walk away

Former Dublin boss Tom Carr has paid tribute to Jim Gavin. Photo: Eóin Noonan / Sportsfile
Former Dublin boss Tom Carr has paid tribute to Jim Gavin. Photo: Eóin Noonan / Sportsfile

Tom Carr cannot understand the suggestion that the next Dublin manager will be inheriting a "poisoned chalice".

More like a Prancing Horse.

"It's still a Ferrari," says the former Dublin boss of the current squad that Jim Gavin has bequeathed, be it to Dessie Farrell or Pat Gilroy or some other as yet unidentified candidate for the vacant Sky Blue hotseat.

"So the question is, can you fit into the seat and drive the Ferrari? That's the big thing. It's not as if you have to go, 'I've a Mirafiori now, how do I turn it into a Ferrari?'

"Let's call a spade a spade. I don't think there's a manager in the country that wouldn't like to take over the Dublin team.

"The over-hanging legacy - yes, it would be there. But, at the same time, you're getting an opportunity to manage what is, without doubt, the best group of players in the country.

"For any manager who has an ego - and we all have - and anyone who wants to manage at the very top level, it would be too tempting to turn down. There's nobody would turn it down."

Shock

The initial shock of Gavin's Saturday announcement may have subsided, but the same questions are still jostling in pursuit of an answer.

Why did he call time now? Who will replace him? And what does this mean for the most continuously successful team in Gaelic football history?

Carr, who led Dublin in the bare old times when Leinster titles were elusive, still possessed a very strong bond with his squad of 1998-2001, several of whom are pivotal players in this latest saga.

He managed Gavin. He made Farrell his captain.

So, would Carr have any advice for county board CEO John Costello, outgoing chairman Seán Shanley and the various other members of the Dublin brains trust now tasked with finding a new manager?

"I think the obvious one for me is Dessie Farrell, to be honest, or Pat Gilroy," Carr replies.

"In most situations like this, you want change ... I think in this scenario you want as much continuity as possible rather than change. And while you'll have that continuity, you'll have that bit of freshness or a different voice anyway.

"At the same time, would they be better off keeping an element of the backroom team as well? Yeah, I'd say they probably would."

It's a moot point whether any combination of Declan Darcy, Paul Clarke, Jason Sherlock and Shane O'Hanlon might have the energy or willingness to stay involved.

But, as Carr stresses, "Dessie is coming from where Jim came from, in terms of working with U21s and younger players. For me, that's the natural progression.

Detached

"I won't say he's the same as Jim - nobody's the same. But he'd be a good man at being detached and still a good man with players. And he would have natural leadership capabilities. He's proven himself."

Whoever follows in Gavin's decorated foot steps, this former Dublin captain and manager is convinced on one point.

"I don't agree it's a poisoned chalice. I think it's a great opportunity for somebody to go and win another All-Ireland next year," Carr maintains.

"You're going to be in an All-Ireland semi-final/final, no matter what way the chips fall, so why wouldn't you do it?"

A change of boss will keep the dressing-room guessing: not necessarily a bad thing.

"It will get them on their toes a bit again," says Carr. "And I don't mean it will rejuvenate them, because that's the wrong word. But it will kind of say 'Wow, okay' … and then there's guys who maybe weren't making the team or were on the fringe all the time, and they'll say 'Right, maybe I've a chance now.'

"There's going to be a certain amount of a fresh broom. But there are 11 or 12 players who are the pillars of the team and still have four or five years left in them."

Carr admits he was "surprised" at Gavin's weekend departure but not surprised that he took so long - 11 weeks since the All-Ireland final replay - to finalise his decision.

"Jim would be good at detaching himself from making a decision immediately after an All-Ireland win or a five-in-a-row," he points out.

"A trademark of Jim is he takes his time to make a decision - he's not rushing into it. But I admire him for being able to walk away from such a mission. I think it takes a lot of courage, to pull yourself away from something like that.

"When I stand back and look, I think he's absolutely doing the right thing. I'm not sure I would have been capable of it, but I think he's doing the right thing."

Carr and Gavin shared more than a devotion to Dublin football; both were in branches of the Defence Forces.

"You can use any amount of superlatives to describe what he's done, but it's been an outstanding period," his former manager enthuses.

"I can't see it ever being matched again, to be quite honest with you. So, is he getting out at the right time? Totally. And there's nothing stopping him going back into it in two or three years' time. He's given himself a breather.

Animal

"I think he's a different animal to the likes of Brian Cody, who stays there no matter what, if you know what I mean. Or Mick O'Dwyer.

"I heard Ger Brennan saying there that he's 'emotionless' … I wouldn't say Jim is emotionless, but he's very calculating and cool. We're all emotional. But he's calculating, cool, and is able to stand back and be very detached."

Last question - would any other manager have matched Gavin's incredible strike rate of six All-Irelands out of seven, 18 major titles out of 21?

"It's a great question," Carr ponders aloud. "Would Mick O'Dwyer been able to deliver that? Would Kevin Heffernan have been able to deliver that?

"If you could compare it, Jim probably won the games that Kevin Heffernan lost - you could say '78, '79. That's from a Dublin perspective," he says.

"Kerry nearly did the five-in-a-row and it's fair to say they had a similar bunch of talent, comparable for that time with what Jim had for this time.

"Now, could you arguably say if Séamus Darby hadn't pushed Tommy Doyle in the back, they would have done it as well? That's a very thin line.

"There's been two eras like that: Kerry in the '70s/80s, and this Dublin team ... Jim Gavin did it (the five-in-a-row) with Dublin, and Mick O'Dwyer failed to do it with Kerry."

A first among legends ...

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