- Jim Gavin’s refusal to speak to broadcast media
Following Dublin’s emphatic 31 point win over Westmeath, all again seemed rosy for the All-Ireland champions. Criticised in some quarters for failing to beat rivals Kerry in April’s National Football League Final and beating Carlow by 12 points after initially struggling to break down a resolute Carlow defence in their Leinster Football Quarter Final in Portlaoise, yesterday they answered their critics.
However, after the game, manager Jim Gavin, refused to speak to any broadcast media under the Hogan Stand but allowed the broadcast media to attend his post-match press conference in the Croke Park auditorium alongside the print media.
In what was an uncharacteristically tetchy press conference from the Dublin boss, he spoke about what has been the topic of the Championship so far, Diarmuid Connolly, and his suspension for pushing a sideline official against Carlow.
Unhappy with the handling of the situation, Gavin said in a statement to the media: ‘‘What concerns me is how his good name was attacked. Before we even saw the referee’s report, we have the national broadcaster, both Pat Spillane and Colm O’Rourke, particularly Pat, who had a pre-determined statement. We saw the rulebook being read out against him on Sky Sports. Supporters have come to me and asked me what’s going on, and why is this imbalance happening. I am struggling to give them a balanced and proportionate opinion to them.
It was my decision to pursue with the CHC, to get their opinion on it. We received advice from senior counsel that, if this went to arbitration, this case wouldn’t hold. Diarmuid didn’t want that to happen, he wanted to move on in the best interests of the team, that’s what he decided to do.
Within 24 hours, before the referee’s report had been signed off, there was a..not a media campaign, but it got a lot of traction in the media, and more importantly, [regarding] the right he has as an individual in the Republic, I think his good name was certainly attacked.’’
It remains to be seen if Jim Gavin’s boycott of the broadcast media continues throughout the summer but this statement indicates that maybe he is beginning to feel the heat from the Connolly incident, which really, for a seasoned Dublin player, should not have happened, especially considering Connolly’s poor disciplinary over the past few seasons. It is high time he learns how to control his temper because he’s no good to Dublin if he’s not playing.
2.Westmeath struggle to crack the Cluxton kickout code
While it was always going to be a daunting task for Westmeath to trek to Croke Park to take on the Dublin juggernaut and suffer an inevitable defeat, they really didn’t help themselves. Whether they went man-to-man or set up a zonal blanket defence, the result was always going to be the same.
What struck me watching the game however was their complete inability to win any primary possession around the middle. Steven Cluxton finished the game with a 100% kickout completion; he always found his man. Westmeath’s goalkeeper, Darren Quinn, and his kickouts, were in stark contrast. Time and again, Quinn was forced to go long because of Dublin’s high press and kick what were hit and hope balls into midfield where Dublin’s physicality was superior to Westmeath with Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny and Niall Scully in particular, all rampant.
This put the Westmeath defence on the back foot as Dublin were able to charge forward in waves, overlapping and eventually scoring 4-29, 4-23 coming from play. It is clear that Westmeath will need to work on a strategy to solve their kickout woes for the qualifiers as it could see them make an early Championship exit.
- Dublin’s Bolt-like pace
With the way Gaelic Football is going it’s being proven that there isn’t as much room for talented footballers who don’t possess the physical attributes of fitness, power and pace. If a manager unearths a player who can play, and has these attributes then he has hit the jackpot and one could say that if money could be given to the Dublin backroom team for this, that they’d be millionaires.
Nearly all of Dublin’s starting 15 yesterday possess electrifying pace which few teams can live with in the plains of Croke Park. Eric Lowndes, Niall Scully, Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and Cian O’Sullivan are all blessed with it. A key Gaelic Football attribute, no doubt, but these guys can play ball too. Eric Lowndes surging run through yesterday to create Dublin’s first goal for Dean Rock, was created through pure speed, beating the Westmeath player to the ball before knifing through and flicking the ball over to Rock.
Niall Scully’s link-up play was superb yesterday and his bombing forward was a prominent feature of Dublin’s attacking plan. Jack McCaffrey got forward as usual and chipped in with his customary score. All of Dublin’s attacking play was based around raw pace, bringing players back in numbers, turning Westmeath over, playing laterally before finding an out-ball who received possession before breaking forward at numbers with pace. It will be fascinating to see if Dublin can exploit that pace against the likes of Mayo, Kerry and Tyrone who they could meet later in the summer.
- Westmeath’s inability to utilise Heslin
John Heslin, one of the best players in the country and Westmeath’s main man cut a forlorn figure yesterday. Starting at full-forward, the St Loman’s Mullingar man got off to a fine start showing superb hands before turning onto his left and scoring a point in the first minute.
When the ball was kicked in to himself and Kieran Martin, both players caused Dublin a few problems, but Westmeath’s problem was that this didn’t happen enough. While he kicked 3 frees as well and finished with 0-04 of Westmeath’s 0-10 it was a bad day at the office. He had 3 wides to his name which is understandable as he spent long periods without the ball and wasn’t in the game. He moved into the middle on the Dublin kickouts and saw a bit more ball but was too far out to cause any problems for Dublin.
His influence is absolutely critical to Westmeath’s qualifier hopes.