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Numbers Game: No manager has beaten Jim Gavin's Dublin more often than Malachy O'Rourke

Jim McGuinness remains the only manager with an unbeaten record against Dublin in the Jim Gavin era.

Updated Jan 31st 2019, 10:40 AM

WHEN THE FINAL whistle went in Clones on Sunday afternoon, Monaghan celebrated their second victory in succession against reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin.

For Farney boss Malachy O’Rourke, he’s getting the hang of beating this Dublin team after six years of trying.

Malachy O'Rourke with Jim Gavin Malachy O'Rourke with Jim Gavin in 2017. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It gives an indication of the sort of dominance Dublin have enjoyed in recent years that O’Rourke became the first manager to achieve back-to-back victories over Dublin in the Jim Gavin era.

He joins an elite group of four men who’ve managed to better Gavin on two occasions – alongside Eamonn Fitzmaurice (Kerry), Brian McIver (Derry) and Brian Cuthbert (Cork). Monaghan are the only team to have beaten Dublin since Kerry did so in the 2017 league final.

The victory will greatly boost Monaghan’s confidence and self-esteem, even if Dublin only had a couple of weeks training under the belt since returning from their team holiday. The next step is defeating the Dubs in championship football.

On the two occasions O’Rourke and Gavin have met on the sideline in the All-Ireland SFC, Dublin prevailed – by 17 points in 2014 and 10 points in 2017.

Jim McGuinness remains the only manager to have beaten Gavin in the championship. Donegal’s All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin in 2014 created a monster, forcing a rethink on Gavin’s end. Dublin transformed from a free-wheeling attacking unit to the possession-based side that have dominated Gaelic football since 2015.

Jim McGuinness shakes hands with Jim Gavin after the game Jim McGuinness shakes hands with Jim Gavin after the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Instead of blitzing teams with attacking power, it’s now a case of death by a thousand cuts. 

McGuinness, who has since switched codes to soccer, left the Donegal job at the end of the 2014 season with the rarest thing in GAA – an unbeaten record against Gavin at senior level. They went head-to-head on only two occasions, drawing 1-10 to 0-13 in the 2013 league meeting before the Ulster side’s famous 3-14 to 0-17 win a year later.

Gavin did, however, manage Dublin to All-Ireland U21 final victory against McGuinness’s Donegal in 2010. 

Dublin have failed to win just three games in the championship since 2013. The only other managers to avoid defeat against Gavin’s side in the summer hail from Mayo.

The Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes double-act oversaw Mayo’s All-Ireland semi-final draw with the Dubs in 2015, while Stephen Rochford brought the Leinster knigpins to a replay in the All-Ireland final the following year. Dublin prevailed in both replays.

Examination of Dublin’s league and championship results since Gavin has taken charge shows that 11 managers in total have achieved a least a draw against Dublin. Only six have beaten him – O’Rourke, McGuinness, Fitzmaurice, McIver, Cuthbert and Mickey Harte (Tyrone).

Gavin has overseen 92 competitive games in his tenure, winning 35, drawing nine and losing nine. Eight of those defeats arrived in the league. 

The only other managers to avoid defeat against Gavin were James Horan’s Mayo (2014 league), Rory Gallagher’s Donegal (2017 league) and Kevin Walsh’s Galway (2018 league). 


Gavin’s championship defeats

1 - Jim McGuinness, Donegal (2014)

Gavin’s championship draws

1 - Noel Connelly/Pat Holmes, Mayo (2015)
1 - Stephen Rochford, Mayo (2016)

Gavin’s league defeats 

2 - Malachy O’Rourke, Monaghan (2018 & 2019) 
2 - Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Kerry (2015 & 2017)
2 - Brian Cuthbert, Cork (2014 & 2015)
1 - Mickey Harte, Tyrone (2013)
1 - Brian McIver, Derry (2014) 

Gavin’s league draws

2 - Mickey Harte, Tyrone (2015 & 2017)
1 - Jim McGuinness, Donegal (2013)
1 - James Horan, Mayo (2014)
1 - Rory Gallagher, Donegal (2017)
1 - Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Kerry (2017)
1 - Kevin Walsh, Galway (2018)


O’Rourke now has a 25% winning record against Dublin from eight games. It leaves him behind McGuinness (50% from two games), Cuthbert (50% from two games) and McIver (33% from three games).

Fitzmaurice comes next with 18%, but he remains the only man to have bettered Gavin in a final – Kerry’s Division 1 decider victory at Croke Park in 2017. At 11 games, no manager has gone up against Gavin more times that the ex-Kerry boss. 

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin after Kerry's Division 1 league final victory in 2017. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Mickey Harte and O’Rourke come next with eight clashes each against Dublin. Harte managed a victory in his first showdown with the Round Towers clubman in the 2013 league, but hasn’t overseen a win against Dublin since.

Harte’s winning record stands at 12.5% and although Tyrone are unbeaten in three of the eight games they’ve played against the Dubs, they’ve lost both championship meetings against their rivals (in 2017 and 2018). 

Interestingly, of the six managers who’ve beaten Gavin, Dublin restored the balance of power by defeating five of them later that season. McGuinness stepped down as Donegal boss after their 2014 All-Ireland final loss to Kerry, meaning Gavin never had the opportunity for a revenge mission against McGuinness.

James Horan’s Mayo take on Dublin in the league at Croke Park on 23 February as he looks to improve on his record against Gavin. During Horan’s previous reign, Mayo drew one and lost three of their four encounters with Dublin.

Jim Gavin shakes hands with James Horan after the game Jim Gavin shakes hands with James Horan after their last meeting in the championship in 2013. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Of Gavin’s nine defeats, five have come in Croke Park. The others arrived in Celtic Park (2014), Pairc Ui Rinn (2015), Fitzgerald Stadium (2015) and Clones (2019). 

No Leinster side has so much as drawn a game against Dublin since Gavin took charge. Additionally, no manager who hails from a county in Leinster has done so either.

Three Ulster managers have defeated Gavin – McGuinness, O’Rourke and McIver. Two bosses from Munster (Fitzmaurice and Cuthbert) have beaten Gavin three times between them, while no manager hailing from Connacht has defeated the Dublin boss to date.


The 11 managers who’ve achieved at least a draw against Dublin in the Jim Gavin era:

Jim McGuinness, Donegal (2011-14)
P2 W1 D1 L0 – winning record 50% 

Brian Cuthbert, Cork (2014-15)
P4 W2 D0 L2 – winning record 50%

Brian McIver, Derry (2013-15)
P3 W1 D0 L2- winning record 33% 

Malachy O’Rourke, Monaghan (2013-present)
P8 W2 D0 L6 - winning record 25% 

Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Kerry (2013-18)
P11 W2 D1 L8 – winning record 18%

Mickey Harte, Tyrone (2013 – present)
P8 W1 D2 L5 - winning record 12.5% 

James Horan, Mayo (2011-14)
P4 W0 D1 L3 – winning record 0%

Noel Connelly/Pat Holmes, Mayo (2015)
P 3 W0 D1 L2 - winning record 0%

Kevin Walsh, Galway – (2015 – present)
P3 W0 D1 L2 - winning record 0%

Rory Gallagher, Donegal (2015-17)
P5 W0 D1 L4 - winning record 0%

Stephen Rochford, Mayo (2016-18)
P6 W0 D1 L5 - winning record 0%



Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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