DUBLIN manager Jim Gavin paid tribute the ethic of the likes of Naomh Mearnog man Kevin O’Brien for his efforts over the course of the season that helped the county to their second All-Ireland title in three years.
The former Dublin Under-21 captain was an unused sub in the final but played a key role in 2013, helping the county win the National League as well as the Leinster and All-Ireland senior football championships.
He was named in the starting line-up in both the quarter and semi-finals of the All-Ireland phase, showing his growing importance to the squad.
In the final, Dublin defeated Mayo 2-12 to 1-14 in Croke Park last Sunday despite not finding the fluidity that had been a feature of a stunning 2013 but they did have the appetite for the battle to grind out victory in rugged fashion.
Indeed, the Sky Blues were awash with walking wounded long before the final whistle with all five substitutes used with a quarter of the tie remaining. It meant Rory O’Carroll and Eoghan O’Gara were forced to plough on despite injuries, showing the strength of character required to get over the line and land Sam Maguire.
Gavin felt it showed the depth of talent he has had to work with this year and said that his ability to build the panel has been down to a group of up to 45 players.
“For me the heroes are the guys like Davy Byrne, Eric Lowndes, Darren Nelson, Emmet O’Conghaile, Jason Whelan, Ciaran Reddin, Tomás Brady who didn’t take the field today, who didn’t even get the jersey,” he said after the final.
“They are the real heroes, the guys who set the agenda. They are the souls of the team, the spirit of the team. My hat goes off for them, I’ve so much respect for them, showing up at training day in day out to put their shoulder to the wheel. They set the standard for the rest to follow.
“That’s been the real strength of this group.
“We had a lot of injuries out on the field and showed great heart and great resolve to never give in,” said the former Garda manager.
Indeed, his side got off to a slow start and but for a Bernard Brogan goal that came from a hopeful ball forward, they could have been more than just one point down at half-time.
Nonetheless, they enjoyed much the better of the second period and Gavin was delighted with how his side continued to battle until the end.
“The game ebbs and flows and it’s important for guys to keep their composure and work through the game plan. We’ve always said the players have the flexibility to play the way they see it and to express themselves. The most important thing for us is that we’re ahead at the end.”