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Friday 6 December 2019

Players left stunned by Gavin's morning announcement

1 November 2019; Dublin football manager Jim Gavin in attendance during the PwC All-Stars 2019 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
1 November 2019; Dublin football manager Jim Gavin in attendance during the PwC All-Stars 2019 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

At 12.45pm on Saturday afternoon, the brief statement announcing Jim Gavin was stepping down as Dublin senior football manager flashed up on the county board's website, prompting the gush of tribute and retrospection across social and traditional media.

At 6.22pm an email landed from a PR company advising that a promotional press conference at which Jack McCaffrey had been scheduled to appear was postponed.

There had, it seems, been no indication that Gavin was leaving prior to convening a meeting for Saturday morning.

The first McCaffrey or any other of the Dublin players had heard was from the horse's mouth at that gathering in Innisfails ground off the Malahide Road where the squad do most of their winter training.

Most presumed they were gathering solely to have a team photograph taken.

Gavin's revelation came as complete shock to the squad.

One senior player contacted on Saturday with a request to pay tribute to Gavin respectively declined "out of respect for Jim" so soon after his abdication of the role he held for seven years.

Future

The impression coming from the panel is of players digesting the news in real time with the rest of the GAA world.

Because all the noises suggested Gavin was staying, even if some signs pointed toward the exit door.

In an interview with RTÉ News on Friday in his role as deputy director with the Irish Aviation Authority in which he spoke mostly about drone safety, Gavin was asked about Dublin's immediate future.

"We've been visiting all the schools and clubs and it's been a fantastic experience," he said.

"We're looking forward to it and we've got eight weeks to go to the National Football League."

Last Saturday at a night in St Jude's to honour Kevin McManamon's achievement in winning a seventh All-Ireland medal, Gavin arrived straight from another function and surprised the attendees with anecdotes and stories from his playing days, praise for McManamon and rich advice for coaches in the room.

Such was his relaxed, effusive demeanour, he was the talk of the club the following morning and all through the week.

People who were in the packed clubhouse that night saw a different Jim Gavin from the intensely-guarded character he cut in interviews.

Military

That guard was down.

The real Jim... easy-going and highly-personable, had revealed himself.

But everyone, including the Dublin players, assumed the managerial mark would be reappear in the New Year, when Gavin would preside over the first team to go in pursuit of a sixth All-Ireland title in a row.

Even his captain, Stephen Cluxton, spoke with presumption of his continued tenure when asked about his own future after receiving the Footballer of the Year award last month.

"I'll obviously have to talk to Jim and see what part he wants me to play next year," he said. "He might not want me around and that would be completely fine with me."

Confidentiality

Because of his military background, Gavin has always placed a high value on confidentiality in all aspects of his management of the Dublin football team.

He maintained that ability to keep information about his thoughts or his team until his last official act as Dublin manager on Saturday morning.

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