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Dublin manager Jim Gavin pictured at the launch of the Leinster Championships.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin pictured at the launch of the Leinster Championships.

Jim Gavin: 'I determine success with these players being their very best'

By Cian O'Connell

For Jim Gavin it is all about improving. That is the chief mission the Dublin manager wants to accomplish in every Championship summer.

Four All Ireland titles on the spin have been won, emerging footballers integrated into a decorated panel. Constant evolution and development carries importance, but Gavin doesn't want to spend any significant time focusing on matters outside of his control.

The five in a row talk will sweep around the country, but for Gavin the focus is simply on trying to assist his team. "Very much so," Gavin says on a warm May afternoon at the Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel.

"What I can influence. Again, in the aviation space, after each flight you’d have a review of it. I was a chief flight instructor for over six years. You’re in the business of creating an environment where student pilots can excel. Your endgame is to get them all to achieve their military pilot wings.

"They don’t all get there, but you do your very best to create that environment and set a very high standard for them to achieve. The product is that you get a top class military pilot by the end of it.

"There is lots of learning along the way, lots of reviewing. It’s a process driven industry. That has informed me to be very process driven in terms of the performance of sport."

While 2019 could be an historic campaign for Dublin, that potential achievement isn't on the agenda at all. "In terms of the context of this season, one can’t give any guarantees because one just doesn’t know," Gavin adds.

"The only guarantee that I know from working with the players I have is that they are a really honest and hard-working group of men. They try their best in everything they do. That’s both on and off the field. That’s my expectation of them, that they do their best.

"As it was when I was a chief flight instructor in the military, I expected the cadets and the flight instructors under my command to do their very best."

Gavin, though, remains adamant that there will be no difference to Dublin's approach for the current campaign. "It’s how you process context," Gavin remarks. "I’m very conscious it’s a sport. In my career I’ve got a very broad view of the world. I can put things in context.

Jim Gavin before Dublin's Allianz Football League game against Tyrone at Croke Park in March.
Jim Gavin before Dublin's Allianz Football League game against Tyrone at Croke Park in March.

"For some of the players in the Dublin squad, four years ago they were doing their Leaving Certificate. So that’s the context for them.

"They’re just fighting for a place. That’s all they’re interested in, getting on the teamsheet, as in the first 26. So it’s all about the context. If people have their own narrative or context, I can’t control that.

"All I control is what I’ve been asked to do with the Dublin football team is get them to be their best, in every season. Some seasons we’ve been successful, some we haven’t. Some we’ve been successful where trophies mightn’t have followed. I determine success with these players being their very best."

The spring featured three Allianz Football League defeats ensuring Dublin didn't advance to the decider. "Coming out of the National League, the learning from that way, if we don’t perform to our very best we’ll end up fourth in the League as we did," Gavin continues.

"And we deserved to be there. It’s no secret that coming out of the National Football League there is quality sides there evolving every season. From Kerry blazing a trail to Tyrone playing a more offensive, attacking game, to the consistency of Mayo being deservedly National Football League winners for 2019 Division One.

"Those things are outside of my control. All I can so is focus on the Dublin football team and get us to be our best."

Gavin acknowledges that the years spent living in Baldonnel were informative and helped shape his managerial style for the sporting field too. “It has a huge influence on me,” Gavin admits. “Even from the cadet school, the officer training, to aviation itself has had a big influence on me.

“Even in the context of this year - in aviation, there are no guarantees. Commercial air transport is a very safe industry, but it has become so safe because we have learned from the failures and the incidents and accidents from the past.

“So, there’s a good open mindset, culture, within the aviation sector; there’s a just culture which accepts that humans make mistakes, so I understand that air traffic controllers, engineers, pilots, cabin crew, baggage handlers, people in the aviation security sector … humans make mistakes and it’s our job in the industry to try to find the root cause of it.

“Why they happened, what contributes to it? And learn the lessons and embrace that vulnerability you make yourselves stronger.”

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