|Dublin boss Jim Gavin.|
Some months ago a trio of Dublin players attended a supporters night at the hotel that their county board has aligned themselves with in recent times, for a fee of course.
The Gibson Hotel is a fine establishment, situated in the heart of the city’s Docklands and next door to the O2 Arena that now hosts the country’s top concerts.
Fleetwood Mac are there on Friday night by the way and I don’t have a ticket, not that I personally want one. I prefer to remember Stevie Nicks as she was in the prime of my youth, not as she is now as we both head closer to the pension plan than either of us want to admit.
My youngest son Ciaran, 16 and guitar mad, is desperate to see the dinosaurs of trans-Atlantic rock in live action and I’m looking everywhere for a ticket. I’m not the only one but Fleetwood Mac aren’t the hottest gig in town this week, not by a long shot.
Dublin, part sponsored by the Gibson Hotel where so many Nicks fans will gather on Friday night, will play Mayo in the All-Ireland football final at Croke Park this coming Sunday.
It’s a big game, the biggest on the football calendar and one that has so much riding on it, not least for the two counties involved.
After a summer dominated by hurling drama, and with more to come in the replay between Cork and Clare on Saturday the 28th, it is vital that Gaelic football delivers a blockbuster this weekend.
We got close to it in the semifinal when Dublin and Kerry played out a cracker at Croker.
That was good, but then came the All-Ireland hurling final drama between the Munster rivals when Clare dominated for most of the game, conceded the lead for the first time in the final minutes, then grabbed an extra-time equalizer to deny Cork.
Already the neutrals of the GAA world are counting down to the rematch when the Banner and the Rebels will go at it again, hell for leather we can assume.
Those who prefer their football to their hurling believe this All-Ireland final can match anything hurling has been able to offer this summer, and they may well have a point.
Dublin have been the great entertainers all year long, ever since Jim Gavin took the reins from 2011 All-Ireland winner Pat Gilroy.
Gavin is a great organizer, an astute tactician and a born winner. He trained as a pilot with the Irish Aer Corps, our Air Force. He knows when to take a risk and when to take a calm and controlled approach to the task in hand.
Thankfully for those of us who still enjoy Gaelic football, despite all the northern inspired cynicism of some teams, Gavin hasn’t been afraid to take a risk all summer.
His approach to Gaelic football and championship action is similar to that adopted by Kevin Keegan as manager of Newcastle United when he almost gave Alex Ferguson a run for his money in the Premier League title race.
Keegan’s attitude at Newcastle was simple -- as long as his team scored more goals than the opposition they’d be okay. It might sound incredibly simple, stupid almost, but it worked.
And it ensured that things never got boring whenever Newcastle United played football, at the Mecca that is St. James’s Park or on the road.
They didn’t win the league of course, but they did win friends and admirers. There were times when it looked like that was more important than the title itself to Keegan.
Gavin probably won’t be quite as relaxed in his desire to win on Sunday, but he has already made it clear to anyone who will listen in the build-up to the game that Dublin will not employ a blanket defense against the free scoring Mayo forwards. It’s not in his nature and he won’t allow his players to do it.
The good news for us neutrals is that Mayo won’t play any other way either. They’ve already scored 14 goals in the championship this season, to Dublin’s 11, and the word on the street in Castlebar is that Cillian O’Connor will be risked on Sunday, despite his shoulder injury.
O’Connor is another man who knows only one way to play football. He has an eye for goal and a foot to match, and his ability to change games will be needed if Mayo can coax him through the 70 minutes come Sunday.
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