Gavin allays fears as O’Sullivan returns

by Dave Donnelly

Jim Gavin has allayed fears surrounding Cian O’Sullivan’s participation in next week’s All-Ireland football final against Tyrone.

The Kilmacud Crokes back went off injured early in the semi-final win over Galway, prompting speculation he may have suffered a recurrence of hamstring woes that have dogged his career.

The Boys in Blue went on to win the match comfortably, pulling away in the second half to win by nine points, 1-24 to 2-12, having been just two in front at the break.

Dublin are now just one game away from equalling Kerry’s record of four consecutive All-Ireland titles, with last season’s beaten semi-finalists standing in their way on September 2.

O’Sullivan’s withdrawal was a sign of concern, however, but Gavin clarified the five-time All-Ireland winner will return to training this week after being withdrawn as a mere precaution.

“Good news with Cian. He’ll be back training next week,” Dublin boss Gavin said at Dublin’s pre All-Ireland final media event.

“It’s good news. You get the normal bumps and bruises that you would associate with a championship game, but we are healthy, which is great.

“It was just a tightness that he felt. That was all. We weren’t going to push it in a competitive game like that so we just took him off and it worked out for us. He is a good leader for the team. He drives standards, both on and off the pitch.

“He is obviously a very experienced player and I have been fortunate to work with him through a lot of it.

“There are a group of players with that experience and it is important going into games like this that we can trade off that.”

Were O’Sullivan – or any other player – to find themselves unavailable, Gavin is confident there are players waiting in the wings to step up in their absence.

One of the keys to Dublin’s recent success has been the squad’s ability to continuously drive up standards, and much of that has come from the players on the fringes looking to force their way in.

There’s no better example than Con O’Callaghan, who played his first championship game last year and ended it with an All-Star and the Young Player of the Year award.

“We’ve always just tried to be our best, whatever part that is to play on the team. Just to give it your all. The great strength of the group is that they understand that.

“Yes, they all want game-time. But they understand that in a team sport, it’s about the team. It’s about the collective, whether that’s playing for seven minutes or the full 70 minutes.

“They’re willing to commit in the game. And then outside of the game, they’re pushing each other on to get game time.”

Gavin also paid tribute to the genius of Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, who has guided the Red Hand to each of their three All-Ireland titles, as well as six Ulster Championships.

Gavin was a player the last time the sides met at this stage of competition, when Dublin edged out Tyrone by a point to take the All-Ireland crown in 1995.

“He’s one of the great managers. Obviously he saw the current crop of players coming good as well and how talented they were.

“But I think it’s just a testament to his passion for Gaelic games. It comes to the fore when you hear him speak about the game. He’s had great success in the past and he will have great success in the future.”

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