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The disappearing Dubs: how the picture has changed for all-changed for all-conquering football champions

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Jim Gavin

Jim Gavin

SPORTSFILE

Jim Gavin

It's 14 months since Dublin ran the last leg of the five-in-a-row and if the rate of change was initially somewhat surprisingly slow, the scale of revamp is now considerable.

Certainly, it is well above the rates of natural erosion an inter-county panel experiences year-on-year and could easily have been higher.

But for the sporting shutdown and his late appointment, Dessie Farrell would surely have accelerated the transition, as he begins his first Championship campaign as Dublin senior manager in unique circumstances.

But as it is, on the week they begin Championship life after Jim Gavin and bid to win a sixth All-Ireland title in a row, nine influential members of last year's historic success are no longer there.

Jim Gavin

In his press conference after that Kerry game, Gavin mused that he didn't see the five-in-a-row as an end in itself. Six weeks later he was gone.

There's no doubt that he had strong raw material with which to work.

But Gavin coaxed more energy out of the group every season of his reign to ward off complacency.

He kept a step ahead of the tactical trends of Dublin's primary challengers after 2014, and curated a culture of relentless collective improvement for the group.

Declan Darcy

Darcy was Dublin's defensive co-ordinator who, by his own recent admission, had '3-14' printed on his locker, his printer, his laptop and other daily use items, to remind him of the score Dublin conceded against Donegal in 2014 in their only Championship defeat.

Darcy was with Gavin since the start, when they coached the 2003 Dublin Under 21s to an All-Ireland title and besides his on-pitch expertise, shared the same sporting values as Gavin, meaning he was one of the very few people in who the manager confided.

Jason Sherlock

Recruited after that Donegal game to effectively run the Dublin attack, Sherlock was the main protagonist in the tactical evolution of the team; one with a variety of styles of play after the one-speed, gung-ho days of 2013 and '14.

By 2017 and the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, they were so well-drilled in the method of breaking down zonal or hybrid defences, they could almost do it in their sleep, running plays that had elements borrowed from basketball tactics; blocks and screens, with Ciarán Kilkenny essentially playing the role of point guard.

Paul Clarke

Initially part of the tranche of Gavin's backroom team who were kept on by Farrell, Clarke left the setup at some point during the first lockdown, around the time Brian O'Regan was brought on board as the team's primary coach.

Clarke's involvement with the Dublin senior management stretches back to 2005, when he worked closely with 'Pillar' Caffrey.

Jack McCaffrey

Rumours circulated early in the year that he may be contemplating another season away from inter-county football, having done so in 2016, but his appearance as a substitute in Omagh in Dublin's League last game before the lockdown seemed to allay those fears.

The most explosive ball-carrier in football, his performance in last year's drawn game with Kerry ranks among the finest in All-Ireland finals of recent vintage.

Diarmuid Connolly

It says much about his ability that Gavin brought Connolly back into the squad mid-summer after his intended trip to America was scuppered and then, with just eight weeks training, gave him a full half in the All-Ireland final replay.

More comfortable playing off his own instincts than a tight script, his long-range passing kept Dublin's inside line nourished with early, direct delivery.

Eoghan O'Gara

Aptly enough, his final contribution on the pitch was scoring a goal in Omagh last August.

O'Gara, despite diminished playing time in the last two years of his career, remained a hugely popular and influential member of the panel behind the scenes over the past two years, bringing an aggression and energy to internal matches that elevated Dublin's preparations for the biggest games.

Bernard Brogan

Brogan had slipped down the attacking order of merit since rupturing his cruciate ligament in February 2018 but Gavin, who never considered sentiment a good reason for selection, included him in Dublin's 26-man squad in the biggest game of his tenure last September.

His recent autobiography revealed how Brogan, along with other other senior squad members, took personal responsibility for accelerating the development of team-mates who were effectively taking their places.

Darren Daly

Another player whose game time had evaporated over time, Daly's ability to perform specific, man-marking jobs in big games - primarily off the bench - saw him gather seven All-Ireland medals.

The loss is offset by Daly moving straight from the pitch into the backroom.

Though it was understood by many initially that he would be part of the Dublin analysis team, the Fingal Ravens man was listed as a selector in the match programme for Dublin's most recent League games.


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