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Is it time for Gavin to say goodbye to Dubs?

High fives: Manager Jim Gavin and Brian Howard after Dublin clinched the Sam Maguire for the fifth successive time
High fives: Manager Jim Gavin and Brian Howard after Dublin clinched the Sam Maguire for the fifth successive time
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

On Sunday evening, there was a faint valedictory air about Dublin and their post-match celebrations after re-drafting the history books with their fifth consecutive All-Ireland title.

Not far from the grounds of Trinity College, manager Jim Gavin joined a number of the players in The Palace Bar. This in itself is not uncommon. Gavin has been known to join the players for a celebratory drink in the day after an All-Ireland win. But usually he would make it brief before slipping off with his lieutenant Declan Darcy, with whom he has been managing Dublin teams since 2003.

What was different was how Gavin remained in the bubble for the evening, also calling into the Sackville Lounge. There wasn't a sense he was cramping their style.

It might seem particularly prim to be pointing something like this out, but the entire Dublin project, from the early days of Pat Gilroy taking over in 2009, has been about ridding themselves of the suspicion they were a group of 'Spiceboys', to lift a term from another sport.

Mark Vaughan, with his bleached blonde hair and image, happened to be in Café en Seine one evening in the summer of 2009, entertaining clients. Gilroy was intent on rooting out the social element of the team and, once word reached him, he went there by himself, spotted Vaughan and he was cut from the panel.

From then on, clear demarcations were drawn, with Gavin going even further. Dublin players on All-Star tours were said to have been on guard whenever they felt his presence close.

Those divisions seemed to melt away after the game on Saturday night. Gavin, normally reticent with members of the media in post-match briefings, was in ebullient form. His father, Jimmy, was even escorted into the room. His form, compared to a few weeks earlier following the Super8s win over Tyrone in Omagh, couldn't have been more different.

If you ever doubted his ability to stay on script, you just have to think back to a couple of years ago, less than an hour after winning the All-Ireland, when he told reporters that Dublin were already behind a number of teams in terms of preparation for the next year's competition.

Perhaps the greatest shock was how he shared a few snippets of Stephen Cluxton's preparations. The inner workings of the Dublin football team have always been off limits until now, but here he was revealing that his captain spent two hours on the training field the day after the drawn final with his goalkeeper coach, studying Killian Spillane's shot that breached his goal and how to work on his footwork.

On Sunday morning, at the Gibson Hotel where the Dublin team were staying, selector Declan Darcy gave an insight into the future of Gavin.

"He just works, works, works so hard and he's very diligent. I think it has taken a lot out of him, so whether he has the energy to pursue it, I don't know."

When Darcy says he himself is struggling to make a commitment, then you wonder if Gavin can. What's even in it for him?

But in order to equal, other counties will first have to imitate Dublin in the following ways.

Strength and conditioning

As Peter Canavan said on Saturday night, "the game has moved on," in relation to this element of preparation. Tyrone supporters and players have been dismayed to watch Peter Donnelly leave a full-time post with Tyrone to join Ulster Rugby, and then Monaghan on the side.

In Tipperary, Belfast man Cairbre Ó Cairealláin oversees the physical development of their All-Ireland winning hurlers. Kerry footballers have the services of Armagh man Jason McGahan.

Others have to make similar appointments if they wish to keep pace.

Commercial

Dublin have John Costello as chief executive officer, which is a full-time role aside from that of county chairman.

Former player Tomás Quinn has been commercial and marketing manager for Dublin GAA since January 2014.

Dublin may be making the most of their commercial opportunities, but they have people in place to make it happen.

Planning

Most counties are run on a week-to-week, hand-to-mouth existence. There was much sneering earlier this year when Cork unveiled a long-term planning document. With All-Ireland titles at minor and Under-20 in the bag, it doesn't look as foolhardy now.

Intangibles

There is just a single Dublin man playing Australian Rules football in James Madden.

Right now, a county such as Derry have Conor Glass, Callum Brown and Anton Tohill pursuing a very different sporting dream.

Kerry were able to keep David Clifford at home but haven't been as lucky in the case of Mark O'Connor or Stefan Okunbar. They could end up in green and gold.

There's a lot of defeatism out there right now but, with an ageing bench, Dublin are not as invincible as they appear.

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