‘I think this winter will be a period of change’ – Retirements and Gavin departure may be on cards for Dublin

DUBLIN ALL-IRELAND winner Barry Cahill believes a bunch of retirements from the current squad may be on the cards this winter and has also raised the prospect of Jim Gavin, along with his management team, departing if they complete the five-in-a-row next Sunday.

Dublin are heavy favourites to lift Sam Maguire in Sunday’s decider against Kerry and Cahill feels that history-making feat could prompt Gavin to finish up as manager.

Six-time All-Ireland victor Paul Flynn retired in early May at the outset of this summer’s championship and Cahill has forecast other experienced members of the squad joining him in the off season.

“Absolutely, I think this winter will be a period of change for a number of players. Paul Flynn has obviously already retired. I’d probably expect another four guys who could possibly finish up.

“The big question will be Stephen Cluxton in my opinion. I mean whenever he goes, if it’s this winter or maybe a year or two further down the road, that’ll be a massive change and also Jim Gavin.

“I think there’s a possibility Jim could, if they win on Sunday, finish up this winter. Him and Declan Darcy are very close and if Declan Darcy decided he can’t give it any more, and the whole effort and commitment has taken its toll and if you think back to those two guys in particular have been involved with Dublin teams since 2003, it’s a long old stint.

“You get five-in-a-row under your belt, certainly that changes the whole dynamic as to maybe what you want to do going forward. Let’s say the scenario where they lost the game, they won’t want to finish on that note so they’ll go back again. I think if Dublin win five-in-a-row there could be four or five potential retirements but there’s also a chance the management team might finish up.

“I know Jim had sort of extended his agreement with the county board earlier in the year but that’s not anything of note really, it’s just probably Jim’s way of telling guys he’s not going away and trying to keep all the squad members on their toes but yeah I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Barry Cahill was speaking today at the launch of AIB’s new short film, The Toughest Temptation.

Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Cahill believes the captain, goalkeeper and cornerstone of this Dublin side is irreplaceable.

“I don’t think so (that he is replaceable). No I really don’t. Even though the standard of goalkeeping in Dublin club football is very high and there’s a really good understudy there in Evan Comerford, I think just the aura around Stephen (Cluxton) and the presence and the calmness that he gives to the back line.

“He’s obviously captain of the team for the last number of years. Massive experience there and what he’s done for the game has been remarkable. I also think opposition teams will go really hard against Dublin’s kickouts when Stephen finishes up.

“So the scrutiny that’ll be on the next goalkeeper will be very high and the spotlight will be on him. It’ll be a difficult set of boots to fill no doubt.

“You know, it can be easy enough for inter-county goalkeepers in training and league games to be pinging these lovely passes, you know, a 30-yard chip ball or maybe a 50-yard low trajectory kick pass out to the wing. When you get into these pressure cooker environments midway through the second half – full house – Stephen is the best in the business at that and he does it so calmly and so effectively.

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“The guys out the pitch know that as well, the middle eight in particular. They’re all well tuned in, whether it’s making dummy runs or selfless runs away from the ball to create space. Stephen with his pinpoint kicking just nearly lands it on their chest.”

Cahill is looking forward to see what approach Kerry adopt on Sunday and feels they are the only team in the country with a set of forwards capable of defeating Dublin.

“The big thing for me is that if Dublin are going to be beaten, and they will at some stage, you need the class up front to be able to deliver on it. That’s probably something Mayo have been lacking over the last couple of years so I didn’t expect Mayo to get the job done in the semi final whereas Kerry have the outstanding inside forwards that can do damage.

“So if they need three goals to beat Dublin, which they probably do, there’s a fair chance they could create three goal chances and the likes of Geaney and Clifford could convert them. That’s the interesting part of me, how Kerry line up. Will they go maybe a bit defensive for the first half and try and keep it as tight as possible? 

Dublin’s Jonny Cooper and Kerry’s David Clifford in action in the league in March 2018.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“I wouldn’t have given Tyrone much hope if they got to the final. I think it would have been just a carbon copy of those type of games that we’ve seen between Dublin and Tyrone in the championship the last couple of years.

“Donegal I would have probably given a shout to too. I was up at the Ulster final against Cavan, they were really impressive that day. They pushed Kerry in the Super 8s game with 1-20 and I think Donegal with the individual class players that they have, the likes of Murphy, Ryan McHugh, McBrearty, Eoghan Bán Gallagher etc and their athleticism could have caused problems for Dublin.

“But all along I would have said Kerry were the only team that could potentially beat Dublin. If they played each other five or six times, I think Kerry could sneak one win out of those games. There’s always a chance come Sunday.”

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Ten years ago Cahill was part of a Dublin side who were swatted aside by Kerry at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage by 17 points.

Could he have foreseen the transformation that sees Dublin a decade later chasing a seventh All-Ireland crown since that collapse?

Barry Cahill in action in 2009 against current Kerry selector Tommy Griffin.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“No chance! We probably would have taken one All-Ireland in 10 years, considering that Dublin hadn’t even got to a final for 14 years back in 2009. It’s hard to believe.

When we got the All-Ireland under our belt in 2011, so many new guys came in and got that All-Ireland in the early part of the year. Even when Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion came in 2013, within the first nine months of their inter-county career, they got an All-Ireland under their belts – that’s massive for any team.

“There’s a reverse situation with the Kerry group of the moment because they have so many guys who are aged 20, 21, 22, it would be huge for them if they are able to get a medal under their belt and can build on that for the next five to 10 years.

“You go back to my time in 2011, there were a lot of players who hadn’t even experienced an All-Ireland final. The whole squad of 30 players, no one had played in it before. Even the fact that going into that final there was a huge amount of warmth and well wishes from other counties around Ireland. They wouldn’t have had a problem with Dublin winning an All-Ireland in 2011.

“We got a lot of goodwill leading into the game and when we won that All-Ireland over the winter. It’s the reverse now! Even Kerry’s arch-rivals are probably shouting for them on Sunday. That’s just that’s the nature of it when a team is dominant.”

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