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'It's an opportunity to learn and grow' - Gavin plays down concerns about Dublin's league defeats

Dublin meet Mayo tomorrow night in a game that will go a long way towards deciding the Division 1 semi-finals.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

JIM GAVIN BRUSHED off any concerns about Dublin’s form and insisted that despite two early defeats, the Division 1 campaign has been positive so far for the Boys in Blue.

The Dubs take on Mayo in Croke Park tomorrow night in a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final, with the winner taking the upper hand in a dangerously tight race for the semi-finals.

After last year’s trophy treble of league, Leinster and All-Ireland crowns, Dublin’s performances this spring have already come under scrutiny.

But Gavin believes the campaign has to be judged on its own merits and sees plenty of positives despite the losses against Cork and Derry.

“I wouldn’t reference last year at all,” he said yesterday. “Certainly the players and the management team haven’t referenced it in a long, long time.

We’re looking forward the whole time. With any of the teams we’ve played, we haven’t referenced a campaign from nearly 10 months ago, games that we played nearly 10 months ago.Teams are very well prepared and up for the challenge of playing us.

After opening with wins over Kerry and Westmeath, Dublin lost by two points against a determined Cork earlier this month.

They bounced back to beat Kildare but then were a clear second best against Derry in Celtic Park.

It leaves them level with Mayo on six points behind Cork, Derry and Tyrone who lead the way in the race for the semis.

“There have been one or two calls in the games that haven’t gone our way,” Gavin said.

“At the very end of both games that we’ve lost, we’ve been quite close. On both occasions, on the day, we were beaten by the better team. Both Cork and Derry deserved their wins.

Mayo players dejected at the end of the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

He added: “We’re looking at the league as an opportunity to learn and grow. We know that if we remain static teams will overtake us, so we try out some new things.

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“Some work, some don’t. We try and build on those that work.

“It’s a big, big challenge again on Saturday. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn about one another in the Dublin squad and try and grow from it.

The players are up for the challenge ahead. There’s a great dynamic in the squad. Despite results not going our way, the enthusiasm and energy there is really crackling. They’re putting a big, big effort in.

All-Stars Rory O’Carroll and Paul Flynn are available for the first time this season after getting game time with their clubs last week while Bernard Brogan is likely to make his return against Tyrone.

Diarmuid Connolly celebrates after the final whistle Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Gavin can also call on Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly who return following their AIB All-Ireland club win with St Vincent’s as well as defender Michael Concarr whose eye-catching performances for the Marino men earned him a call-up to the panel.

Connolly landed 2-5 in a virtuoso performance at centre-forward against Castlebar and Gavin may choose to move him in off the wing as circumstances dictate.

“He had an excellent club campaign and he is certainly an option but he’s one of number of players we have who have the capacity to play there. In the system we play players can step in and out of that position.

“I think we have a lot of players, Diarmuid Connolly included, that can play in all six forward positions and would do well in each.

“So depending on form, on the opposition and on tactical approach, there are multiple options which from a coaching position is great to have.

He was probably our most consistent forward last year from a management perspective. We were very happy with the return we got from Diarmuid in all the games.

“A player is asked to play a particular role for a team and whatever we asked from him last year, he gave it to us.”

Moran fit to lead Mayo as Horan names his side for Croker clash with Dubs

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Niall Kelly

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