JIM GAVIN: WE MUST CONTINUE TO EVOLVE AS A TEAM.
IN the same room in Parnell Park where he publicly nominated his head as the deserved target for any residual flak being slung around after last year’s defeat to Donegal, Jim Gavin sat back and went over it all again yesterday.
With the Ulster champions arriving to Croke Park on Saturday night, this an was unavoidable part of a promotional appearance/pre-match press call.
Equally inevitable though, was that Gavin had no fresh insights, no subsequent epiphanies from which to draw a new angle, a vantage point to view the most shocking – in a literal sense – afternoon of last summer’s football Championship.
By the time of his mea culpa, the squad had met, debriefed and disbanded for the year.
The tape had been cut, sliced and analysed.
Plans for 2015 had already been initiated.
It might have been his first and to date, only Championship defeat as Dublin manager, but there seems no danger of Gavin over-analysing the game or indeed, basing too chunky an element of his seasonal plans around the stark lessons learned therein.
“We didn’t perform, that’s the big thing,” he said yesterday, from the hindsight of five passed months.
“We’ve always gone after getting a performance and trying to work on that process and that process didn’t work against a very good Donegal side.
“But I learned about them over the last three years that they (Dublin) are a mentally tough group of men.
“They were, naturally, disappointed by the way the game went but quite quickly they picked themselves up and they are very motivated for the season ahead.”
The shorthand for the day was that Jim McGuinness unfurled a tactical masterpiece, a once-off game plan designed to turn Dublin’s much vaunted and unadulterated attacking devotions against them, one honed behind the closed doors of a week long training camp in Johnstown House.
The other hackneyed synopsis is that had Dublin converted one of either (or both) their first half goal chances, Donegal’s task would have been rendered impossible.
As ever, there are shades of grey, significant moments and plays on which the game pirouetted.
“There were some things we tried in the game that worked,” Gavin recalled.
“We created over 30 scoring chances in the game but didn’t take them unfortunately, and some things defensively didn’t work.
“Absolutely, there was lots of learning, as there is in every game. Of the five out of six competitions we have entered and won over the last two years, no matter if we win or lose the process always remains the same in terms of reflecting and looking back on things we did well and others that didn’t work out as well as planned.
“We are hugely aware that if we remain static and don’t have growth in our game-plan that teams will pass us by and that is one of the challenges that we had coming out of that game and one of the major learning points.
“We have had a lot of success in competitions, and the process is as diligent then as when we are not successful with our performances.
“Whether we win or lose we are always trying to grow as a team, absolutely there was lots of learning from the game last August but hopefully we’ll rectify that over the coming weeks.”
On a non-Donegal related matter, Gavin said he would be “disappointed” if the plans to introduce a hooter and official match clock are shelved, as has been mooted.
“I think it’s a fantastic initiative,” he said.
“It would add more excitement to the game, so it’s a little bit baffling why it hasn’t taken place. I don’t know the logistical issues but they seem pretty straightforward to me.”
The Dublin boss also gave a personal thumbs up to the proposed condensing of the GAA fixture programme into a calendar year.
“I think it’s the start of the process,” said Gavin, a stated proponent of a move to a more compact inter-county season than the one currently deployed.
“Páraic Duffy has mentioned that he supports it and it’s great to see that coming from the leadership.”(The Herald)