THERE’S SOMETHING a little unusual about Jim Gavin’s pre-Leinster Senior Football final press conference.
It takes over ten minutes for the Dublin boss to mention Sunday’s opposition, Laois. It’s a sign, perhaps, of the sheer level of expectation around the current Dublin panel: most of the media in attendance clearly see the final as a formality, and the questions are mainly focused on the Dubs longer-term goals.
Gavin, in fairness, is not one of those making assumptions. The questions do eventually come to Sunday’s opposition in what the bookies have down as a fairly comfortable eighth consecutive provincial win for the Dubs.
Gavin then talks us through Laois, exploring what he sees as their strengths and weaknesses, and makes several observations about their key men. Laois last won the title in 2003, and last made the final in 2007.
It could reasonably be observed that the Leinster title is simply a stepping stone towards the sharp end of the season for Dublin, and has lost some of its lustre locally, though Gavin suggests otherwise.
“My full focus is on the challenge of Laois and we’re not looking beyond that,” he says. “If we get through the game, we’ll think about the run of games that come afterwards. It still means a lot to these players.
“Based on their performances, Laois have shown a lot of resilience,” he continues. “They went down by ten points against Wexford, and came back to get the win. Then they had a different kind of game against a very attacking team in Carlow.
“They’ve shown different sides to their game. We’ve been working on getting our game plan right this week, hopefully if we get the performance, we’ll get the result.”
Gavin has a lot of love for the Leinster Championship, but then again, he’s yet to lose in one. “The provincial system on the island of Ireland is very strong,” he argues. “We’re Leinster men and very proud of it. The style of football in Leinster is very attacking based, and we’re very proud of that, too.
“I think we play the right kind of football, and it’s still very much a competition players want to win.”
Stephen Cluxton has been a major focus ahead of the final, after he was injured in a physical challenge against Longford last time out. It’s not yet clear whether he’ll return “Stephen is a tough guy, mentally very strong, determined, so we’ll just have to see over the coming days how he progresses,” Gavin said
“I’ll leave all those assessments to the medical team and the player. Ultimately it’s a player’s call, to say whether he’s available for selection. So I’ll talk to them over the coming hours and days and we’ll see how that goes out.”
If Cluxton doesn’t make Sunday’s team, the relatively inexperienced Evan Comerford, who came on during the semi-final, would be expected to take his place.
“Evan would have played obviously two league games this year, and he did very, very well,” Gavin said of the possibility, before returning to his captain.
“He [Cluxton] has been consistently there and that’s a testament to his determination for his sport. He has a great passion for it and that’s very apparent when you’re around him, each time you train with the team, he’s a great leader.”
The captain, should Cluxton be absent, is yet to be determined. “We’re just delighted to be back in another final, competing against a great Laois team,” Gavin concludes. “I think it’s shaping up to be a cracking game for the supporters.”