Gavin and Dublin set for challenge of Laois

by Gazette Reporter
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Dublin football manager Jim Gavin says Laois are his team’s “biggest threat” ahead of their Leinster championship opener at Croke Park this weekend.

The 1995 All-Ireland winner dismissed any notions of complacency from his all-conquering Dublin team ahead of their showdown with the 2003 provincial champions.

Speaking to press at the Gibson Hotel last week, Gavin says his reigning All-Ireland and Leinster champions will not be underestimating the O’Moore county.

“The biggest threat to Dublin this year is Laois,” said the Dublin boss.

“That’s the way we view it. We have a game against them on June 8 and we don’t look beyond that.”

Laois set up the meeting with Dublin after defeating Wicklow in the first round 0-21 to 1-11, with forwards Ross Munnelly (0-9) and Donie Kingston (0-6) scoring 15 points between them.

Dublin won the last championship meeting between the counties in 2012, when the Dubs (then defending their 2011 All-Ireland title) narrowly prevailed 1-12 to 0-12.

The Dubs have won the provincial title a record 52 times compared to Laois’ six. However, the blue and whites have finished runners-up on 13 occasions – the last of which was in 2007, and five of those final defeats were at the hands of Dublin.

“They [Laois] are a dangerous team,” said Gavin of Dublin’s opponents.

“For any team to go to Aughrim and score 21 points – and they probably should have scored six or seven more — is a good day’s work.

“And in their last two games [against Wicklow and Down] where they had to win, they did a very comprehensive job in doing so.”

He added: “They are physically strong – particularly in midfield, have lots of pace in the forwards and backs, and display those attributes in games. They can also put big scores on you, so it will be a big challenge for us.”

Despite being crowned champions in nine of the last 10 Leinster championships; winning 26 of 27 matches, 42-year-old Gavin stated the Dubs are not certain to win anything this year.

“There are no guarantees in life or sport,” he said. “All the trophies have been handed back and we need to earn the right to win those trophies again.

“The challenge for us now is to get our game right and if we do we will be in a position to compete for honours.”

Dublin have no major injury concerns ahead of their provincial defence and news of Ger Brennan’s progress will be a welcome boost.

However, 2013 Philips Sports Manager of the Year Gavin insists that squad selection will be based purely on form rather than reputation.

“We’re on track and everything else is good,” said the Round Tower’s clubman. “We have some minor injuries but nothing to rule anyone out yet.

“Ger is progressing very well and will be in line for selection, but we will pick guys who are pushing themselves hard in training, getting game time and performing well for their clubs.

“The guys who are playing well for their clubs will always be recognised by us. There are no exceptions to that.”

One of the major talking points for this year’s championships has been the interpretation and application of the new black card rule.

Already in the Ulster SFC there has been controversy over its use in the drawn Tyrone and Down game. But Gavin feels the rule is preventing foul play and will take time to adopt and get used to.

“I think the black card is working as we’re not seeing cynical fouling in games anymore,” he said.

“It’s too easy to blame the referee all the time and we’re all guilty of that. But if players didn’t engage in cynical play, the referee’s job would be a lot easier.

“Change can sometimes be difficult to accept,” he added.

“But it has been endorsed, the rule is here to stay and we need to accept that mistakes will be made from time to time.”

There has also been an ongoing debate over whether the Dubs should play matches outside of Croke Park.

While many counties claim playing at GAA headquarters gives Dublin an unfair advantage, Gavin says he and his team are happy to play anywhere.

“We’ll go anywhere,” he said. “We’re quite comfortable to travel wherever we have to go to play.”

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