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'Squaring up' to Jim Gavin as a player and stepping back to allow a daughter 'find her own self'

Former Dublin footballer Johnny Magee recalls playing with Jim Gavin and talks about the pride he feels watching his daughter play for Dublin.

FORMER DUBLIN FOOTBALLER Johnny Magee noticed an imminent change in his role as a father when his daughter was in her teenage years.

Lauren Magee with father Johnny Magee after the game Johnny and Lauren Magee. Source: ©INPHO

He had been coaching his girl Lauren from the age of five and she was a regular feature at his training for both Kilmacud Crokes and Dublin during her youth. Along with her Dad, Laruen also drew inspiration from her uncle Darren Magee, who starred for both club and county.

But despite being surrounded by these influences, it took a bit of time for Lauren to inherit her Dad’s love of Gaelic Football.

“I remember playing a match and I was just chatting away to the opposition. Dad would be shouting at me,” she told The42 earlier this year. “I don’t know what age I started getting into it.”

But once the gene kicked in, Magee was on her way to maturing into a proficient footballer with a talent worthy of a place on the Dublin ladies senior panel which captured the county’s first All-Ireland title since 2010 last year.

Lauren Magee and Martha Carter Lauren Magee in action in the 2017 All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The bond shared between the Magees was well demonstrated on the highly-acclaimed documentary ‘Blues Sisters,’ which was aired on RTÉ in the months that followed and offered viewers an extensive account of how Dublin achieved that All-Ireland title.

Magee enjoyed provincial success during his days in the Dublin jersey and he was proud to look on as his daughter realised a dream in Croke Park that he missed out on.

He had always been there watching in the background, but he knew there was a shift in the dynamic of their relationship when she turned 16.

“I’m hugely proud of what she’s achieved and delighted at how well she’s doing,” he says.

“Winning the All-Ireland last year was amazing and I suppose I was coaching her from the age of five.

It got to a stage when she was about 16 that I took a step back because she needed to go and have her own little bit identity and find her own self, even though she was well able at that stage. I just felt I needed to step back.

“Now if she comes and asks for a bit of advice, I’ll give the little bit that’s needed but whoever is the manager… yeah delighted with what she’s done but just trying to take a step back and be there as an adviser and obviously a Dad as well to give her a hug.”

Despite this change between them in a sporting context, Magee’s paternal instincts continued to kick in whenever his daughter needed his comforting embrace.

For the third consecutive year, Dublin suffered an agonising All-Ireland final defeat to Cork in 2016 with Magee lining out for the Sky Blues at midfield.

Lauren Magee dejected Magee after losing out to Cork in the 2016 decider. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A controversial point lead to Dublin’s eventual loss and Magee saw the pain of defeat etched on his daughter’s face on the pitch.

You see them on the floor and your instincts as a parent is a parent is to go out and push by the steward, pick her up and take her off. She’s upset and I want to protect her.

“But that’s just the father instinct in me. I suppose the raw emotion and what she experienced, I’ve experienced. Now unfortunately, I didn’t get the experience of winning an All-Ireland but everything else I’ve experienced.

“Being able to know what she’s going through, it is nice to be able to know what her feelings are and be sensitive about when to give her the kick in the backside — ‘you didn’t do this today and this is the reason why.’

2018 Londis All-Ireland Senior Football Sevens Launch Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

“But to be able to put the arm around the shoulder as well with a bit of advice as well. I’d be very honest with her. I had that with my own father.”

Magee’s playing style is characterised by her physicality, a trait which she talks about in the ‘Blues Sisters’ programme.

She was concerned that her tackling technique might lead to some disciplinary issues on the pitch, but manager Mick Bohan reassured her that he wanted her steely toughness in the team that he was assembling for All-Ireland glory.

Magee suspects that her aggressive play is another offering from the gene pool, as her father was an equally tough defender during his playing career.

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Jim Gavin and John Finn Jim Gavin playing for Dublin. Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO

That aspect of his game proved crucial for the Kilmacud native when others fronted up to  him, including teammates on the training ground. He had a few of these encounters with Jim Gavin when the pair were on the Dublin panel during the 90′s, with Magee joining the squad in 1997.

“Jim would give as good he gets,” Magee recalls. “There was a bit of fire in him as well which is what you would need at inter-county level. We would have squared up once or twice at training and there was never a step back from Jim.

“He would expect the same from you as being a Dublin player. And the fact that he won an All-Ireland before, he would know what’s required and would know there’s a level that you need to get to.

You need to play on the edge and this current Dublin, the Tyrone teams, the Kerry teams have all managed to play on the edge and you need that steely edge in order to be successful.”

The Dublin manager has attracted some criticism in recent years for his expressionless demeanour on the sideline while on duty in the Bainisteoir bib.

He refuses to let the mask slip even after victory is secured in All-Ireland finals but Magee appreciates why Gavin employs this method.

He can recall seeing traces of this in Gavin’s character when they played together too.

Jim Gavin Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Jim was always meticulous when he was playing. He’d go out and practice free-kicks at training. I think what Jim has done is he’s been around the different managers that have gone before and taken what works and what doesn’t work [away from that]. I think he gives that calming influence.

Even if Dublin do go down or concede a goal. You don’t see Jim throwing hands in the air or reacting. He’s watching what’s going on. What I like about it is he doesn’t react to the moment of a referee’s call or what way the game is going.

“He obviously assesses what’s going on instead of getting caught up in the emotion of what’s going on. He’s able to think clearly and react to it in a thinking sense of what needs to be done.

“His thought process would probably come from his background of having been involved in the army.”

Gavin’s cool persona is now permeating through the current Dublin team who remain on course for a fourth All-Ireland title in-a-row when they take on Tyrone in the All-Ireland final on 2 September.

Padraig Hampsey and Michael Darragh Macauley Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Mickey Harte’s side came narrowly close to edging a victory in their Super 8s clash in Omagh, but Magee suspects that that result could be a ‘false read’ as the teams prepare to meet once again in the cauldron of Croke Park.

And should the Dublin ladies manage to come through their All-Ireland semi-final against Galway in Dr Hyde Park later today [throw-in, 4.30pm], Lauren could be part of another double All-Ireland success for the county next month.

“Tyrone need to come out, throw caution to the wind and go for it,” says Magee.

“They obviously can’t go for the full 70 minutes, they need to stagger it out and come out and run at Dublin for the first 10 or 15 minutes then sit back and absorb a bit of pressure.

“I know they got close but I think Dublin have mastered the timing of being prepared and preparing for this season which is obviously shorter. The lads have been on different programmes. They were released back to their clubs for four weeks for the club championship.

“You can see where they were able to manage that through teams. I just think they’ve been looking to peak for the semi-final and final. You’d like to think you’ll see the full extent of what Dublin are capable of.”

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

Johnny Magee was speaking at the launch of this year’s Londis 7s, the All-Ireland Senior Football Sevens, which takes place on the 1 September 2018 at Kilmacud Crokes GAA Club.

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