Ice-cool Jim Gavin will not be losing sleep about a February loss to Kerry Ice-cool Jim Gavin will not be losing sleep about a February loss to Kerry
Jim Gavin won’t be put out by the way it ended in Tralee last Saturday night, will he? Ice-cool Jim Gavin will not be losing sleep about a February loss to Kerry
Cork attacker Declan Dalton ruled out after knee operation

Jim Gavin won’t be put out by the way it ended in Tralee last Saturday night, will he?

Certainly, he didn’t seem at all perturbed by the shemozzle that he bypassed at the end of the match to make his way across the pitch to the dressing rooms.

As Irish Examiner columnist Mike Quirke put it on Twitter in a post which included video of Gavin strolling off without a care in the world, the Dublin supremo went around the dust-up like somebody “steering around a pothole in the road”.

Not one for getting easily frazzled is Jim. In fact, it would probably take something monumental to get him off the bridle.

And losing a league game in February to any county, even Kerry, would not be classed as being anywhere near the ‘monumental’ basket to Mr Horizonal himself.

Internally, Gavin might be less happy about ending up on the wrong end of a 1-18 to 2-14 scoreline in Austin Stack Park.

Yet, in public at least, the man is coolness personified.

Should he have reason to be even the slightest bit concerned as the Dubs embark on a journey with a destination marked ‘History’? After all, Dublin are a successful championship away from surely going down as the greatest Gaelic football team of all-time, no matter how many in Kerry baulk at the suggestion.

Ice-cool Jim Gavin will not be losing sleep about a February loss to Kerry

Not one bit, I proffer. And it would be ‘taken aback’ territory if Gavin was at all worried.

What we learned on Saturday night, realistically, was that Kerry are potentially the future in terms of being the team to beat in the All-Ireland series.

Yet, Dublin remain the here and now. As impressive as the Kingdom were in isolation, context ensures nobody down their way should be getting excited.

They have banked more fitness work than Dublin in recent weeks and will have been extremely eager to show, as Peter Keane aptly explained, “that they can cope” at this level.

Sean O’Shea reiterated his worth to Kerry for the season to come and then some while Stephen O’Brien was afforded a roaming role which plays right up to his greatest strengths. Positives.

And there were plenty of other pluses, too, including the man-of-the-match performance from Dara Moynihan while Paul Geaney, despite bagging just 0-2, displayed leadership in abundance in a tricky area of pitch, one in which he was often out-numbered two-to-one.

Still, it’s February. Nothing handed out at this time of the year, and all that.

Ice-cool Jim Gavin will not be losing sleep about a February loss to Kerry
Kerry’s Gavin O’Brien tackled by Brian Fenton and Michael Fitzsimons of Dublin Picture: ©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

If Geaney is the go-to inside marksman for Keane’s revised and revitalised brigade, then Paul Mannion is evolving into Dublin’s can-hardly-do-without full-forward, at this stage.

The Kilmacud Crokes’ attacker must now be one of the first names on Gavin’s team-sheet.

Surely, there are very few others in the squad that work harder, never mind have their paws on the number of scores Mannion does, for the Boys in Blue.

He has forced his way into that bracket of players which includes Stephen Cluxton – for all Evan Comerford is an able deputy, James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper, Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny and Dean Rock. The elite, essentially. The players Gavin expects to steer the ship through all sorts of waters.

And, of course, his trusted generals tend to repay his faith, time and time and time again.

And the manner of which they fought valiantly in the closing quarter to very nearly force a draw at Kerry’s expense leaves us thinking those generals won’t be letting him down this campaign, either, when it matters.

When it really, really matters.

If, and it is a big, big if, Dublin do fall on their sword later in the summer, you can rest assured they’ll do so fighting until the 80th minute if needs be.

That fact alone should guard against the possibility of them falling on said sword at all.

Last Saturday represented as close to a win-win for Gavin as could possibly be the case after losing a match to a potential All-Ireland title rival.

If anything, Kerry, even though from their own viewpoint they probably had to, have poked the bear.

Dublin are no better than 8/13 favourites to retain the All-Ireland title with the odds-compilers. There’s many, many reasons for that. Many more than there is for Gavin to be anyway frustrated by conceding early-season ground to Kerry.

In a broader sense, it was encouraging to hear people talk favourably about the code, following the contest in Tralee.

It was a wonderful, generally free-flowing and intense spectacle which went down a treat around the country.

Who knew football could be entertaining?

A word of warning, though: Do not expect anything like the contest we witnessed last Saturday should the teams meet in a do-or-die championship encounter.

If Keane intends to make Kerry truly competitive when it counts, then reading more into how he set the team up against both Tyrone and Cavan would be worthwhile.

Should Dublin and Kerry collide later this year, it could be the proverbial chess match of the season that develops.

It might well have been all sunshine and rainbows in Austin Stack Park.

Ice-cool Jim Gavin will not be losing sleep about a February loss to Kerry
Tempers flare at the final whistle. Picture: ©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

However, all that will matter to Keane and Gavin in a possible rematch will be getting over the line and into the next round or winning the final itself.

Neither man will be giving how people view the game a second thought.

All that will count is the final score. And rightly so.

For now, though, Gavin will still be smiling.

Cork attacker Declan Dalton ruled out after knee operation