By John Harrington
Dublin manager Jim Gavin says he’s not surprised Mayo will be their opponents in next Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC Final.
Gavin believes they Connacht side are a ‘mature’ squad and have improved as the Championship has progressed, particularly in defence.
“From what I’ve seen of them I’m not surprised when you look at the players they have,” said Gavin. “It’s a very mature team and they have learned a lot. They have been in finals before so they know how to get here.
“Over the last number of games in the qualifier series, it has benefited them. They’ve got a run now and tightened things up defensively. They have introduced a few younger players from their 21 squad so it doesn’t surprise me.
“Plus their manager as well. Stephen Rochford has achieved a lot with his club as a player and with Corofin, three Galway championships on the spin and winning the All-Ireland club series. He is a proven club manager so it seems to be a good fit. They will be a good challenge for us.”
There has been less hype in Mayo coming into this year’s All-Ireland Final than there was in 2012 and 2013, but Gavin did agree with the suggestion the Connacht side were coming into the match under the radar.
“No. Good teams get to finals and they are a good team,” he said. “You don’t come into an All-Ireland final under the radar. They have earned all their victories along the way and learned a lot from it. They have been right up there in the past.
“Any time we have played them from '13 to last year, even up in Castlebar this February there wasn’t a bounce of a ball between us. I’m sure there will be a bounce of a ball again between us again.”
The Dublin manager revealed yesterday he’ll have a fully fit panel to pick from for the All-Ireland and insisted that James McCarthy had suffered no reaction to playing in the All-Ireland Semi-Final against Kerry having missed the quarter-final with a quad injury.
“James is as tough as teak. He had been training well coming into the quarter-final, we could have played him if we had to but thankfully we didn't to give him another week, but you saw his mobility on the pitch, that's what he was demonstrating in the weeks leading up to that game.”