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Jim Gavin: 'The perception that Tyrone are just defensive is incorrect'

Gavin is preparing to go head-to-head with Mickey Harte on Sunday, a man he says is “one of the all-time great Gaelic football managers.”

JIM GAVIN ARRIVED at Dublin’s All-Ireland final media night armed with facts and figures that show how Tyrone have evolved into a more attacking outfit. 

Mickey Harte and Jim Gavin Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jim McGuinness suggested last week that Tyrone may look to drop 15 bodies behind their own 45 in an attempt to arm wrestle the four-in-a-row chasing side into submission. 

“It could become very ugly and farcical,” he wrote in his Irish Times column. ”It might lead to a farcical and even notorious All-Ireland final.”

But Gavin painted a different picture of Mickey Harte’s team and argued they are not given the credit for their attacking flair. 

“In the ten games they played, they have been impressive,” said Gavin. “They’ve racked up 17 goals which is a fair old achievement, over 160 points.

“Even when we were playing them in Omagh, going into that game they played Roscommon the previous week and the week before that they had played Cork, and they scored 7-44 in two games. 

“The perception that they’re just defensive is incorrect. They’ve got a very very potent attacking force. Obviously Connor McAliskey and (Niall) Sludden, Lee Brennan, Mark Bradley, they’re obviously very potent forwards.

Niall Sludden celebrates scoring a goal Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Then you see Tiernan McCann coming up for scores, the two Donnelly brothers chipping in, Peter Harte, even the last day (against Monaghan) Colm Cavanagh got a long-range score. Frank Burns even up there popping away.

“So they have been very potent up front and I don’t think they’re getting the credit they deserve. But I think their supporters do realise that, and the expectation their fans have for their team, I think you see 7 goals and 160 odd points being scored in ten odd games, that’s pretty impressive.”

Red Hand boss Harte is one of the few inter-county managers with a credible record against Gavin, although he’s yet to manage a championship victory over his counterpart. 

Gavin heaped praise on the “all-time great” career Harte has enjoyed.

“He’s an incredible manager, one of the all-time great Gaelic football managers. He’s won so much in the past and will win a lot with this team into the future.

“Last year he got a three year contract which brings him to 2020, which obviously he saw that there’s a lot of potential in this particular group and they’re paying him back with the faith that they’ve put in him. So he’s put together a formidable football team.

“There’ll only be a kick of the ball between us. Hopefully the ball will bounce our way in the final.”

Diarmuid Connolly kicked 0-12 to help Donegal Boston lift the Boston title over the weekend, but there are still 10 players that saw game-time in the breakthrough 2011 All-Ireland final who are part of Gavin’s current squad. 

Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan both played key roles against Kerry seven years ago, but now Flynn must be satisfied with an impact sub role while Brogan will be hoping to make the 26-man panel for Sunday after recently recovering from cruciate surgery.

“His attitude, his passion for Gaelic games is infectious,” he said of Flynn. “As it is with a lot, most, all the players in the squad really. Paul is a great leader as well has a great influence on the team dynamic.

Paul Flynn Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Team meetings, even on the training field, he drives everything along. A lot of players get that this team is the sum of its parts. Whatever part they’re asked to play, be it 70 minutes, they’re happy to do it.”

On Brogan’s speedy recovery, Gavin remarked: “That’s a very good demonstration of the commitment of these players. He could have chosen one particular part, having got back earlier in the season.

“But he decided to, over the last five and a half months, get himself back in the position to be competing for game-time which is an incredible feat of mind over the body. To push himself so far. He has a very successful but busy business, profession.

“His wife has just had twins – there’s a lot going on with Bernard’s life! To be able to compartmentalise and give so much time to Gaelic games has been inspirational.”

Despite their patient style of play, the Dublin manager feels his team “stay true to that style of Dublin football.”

“It’s open, it’s honest, attacking football. Obviously, we’re playing different defensive systems than we would have in the past, and the environment the players have created for themselves is that it is a team sport and they acknowledge that.

“So it is about contributing as best they can to that team effort. So whether that’s in terms of game-time. Obviously, they all want game-time, I get that, but they just want to play their part for their team. Then in terms of the attack, if they create a scoring opportunity, if the score is on then you take it, we’ve always said that to them.

“That will never change. The challenge has been meeting those different defensive structures that we have met in the past. That changes every year and it keeps everyone fresh on their toes.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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