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Dublin manager Gavin still downbeat even in wake of classic comeback

By Declan Bogue

It was hard to know who won this game, judging by the demeanours of the respective managers.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice passed himself amiably in defeat but Jim Gavin, accompanied by a frankly miserable-looking Stephen Cluxton, appeared to be sickened at the prospect of talking about making it to the biggest day of Irish sport.

Perhaps it is the colourless, drab surroundings of the Croke Park Press conference room. Either way, it is a familiar story, the victors looking condemned while the vanquished appeared to be relieved the whole horrible business of playing top-level Gaelic football is over for the year.

"That's our job as a manager and Stephen's job as a player, to win games. So job done, as far as we're concerned," was Gavin's bleak assessment at having taken part in a wonderful sporting encounter.

He continued, "There is a buoyancy and a great energy and happiness within the squad but it was such a competitive game against such a great side like Kerry." Could have fooled us.

Maybe we are hard on him. The stress involved in managing a team at that level must be enormous and he gave us a brief insight into the thought-processes that kept his features as inscrutable as those on Mount Rushmore even as the Dubs grabbed their third goal of the day.

"I would look at each play as it develops," he explained.

"There were, I don't know, 80 plays in that game there and you're trying to watch each one as it develops and trying to focus.

"I don't lift my head above that bubble. I just try and stay in it and try and stay focused and try and do the best for the players.

"Because ultimately, they're doing the best decisions on the field of play but if you can make any tactical substitutions, that's what my job is and what the management team's job is."

He continued, "So, we might look back at it at the end of the season to see what a good game it was but it's behind us now and we can move onto the next game."

Ah yes, the All-Ireland final. They will meet Mayo, but Gavin insists he hasn't given it a second thought.

"To be quite honest we just focused on the next game, we've always done that. The players themselves are quite good at that. Whatever pressures or expectations are out there on the Dublin team, they kind of grow from that atmosphere and they're used to getting inside the tent and used to focusing on the next game.

"Our sights were just completely focused on Kerry over the last number of weeks. We just couldn't take any game for granted."

In their two league games – the regulation fixture and the league semi-final in this venue, Dublin stared the men from the west down in classic shootouts.

"They were probably two of our toughest games actually, they were very competitive," Gavin recalled.

"And the final quarter those games could have swung either way. So, yeah, no surprise to see them there."

The wake of every Kerry defeat for the last decade has been accompanied with speculation of retirements and this was no different. There was a sense this season that the likes of Tomas OSe, Eoin Brosnan and Paul Galvin were there to help their old buddy Eamonn Fitzmaurice in his first year of management and now he was asked about their futures.

"You are always going to make mistakes and in terms of effort I could haven't have asked more," Fitzmaurice commented.

As he pointed out, the most skillful player on the pitch, Colm Cooper, is not even 30. And while he is about, Kerry will be back.

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