Culture and competition: The key ingredients that make this Dublin team so special

Paddy Andrews believes Jim Gavin and his management team have cultivated a winning formula that will allow further success.

AT THE END of a season where Dublin have gone an entire league and championship unbeaten, picking up their fourth All-Ireland in six years, it’s completely logical to wonder how much longer this incredible run can continue.

Paddy Andrews celebrates with Jason Sherlock Andrews and backroom team member Jason Sherlock celebrate Dublin's latest All-Ireland victory. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

This hungry group of footballers from the capital have the age profile and talent to spend another few years at the top, but most importantly they have the mentality.

The benefit of having intense competition for places is something we’ve seen with the great Kilkenny teams of recent vintage, while Jim Gavin has also helped mould a winning culture in the squad.

“(It’s) the attitude and the culture that’s been created by Jim and the management team and the players that have bought into it,” says Paddy Andrews.

“Every single game matters. There’s no game where we’re like, ‘we’ll take this one handy here.’ Or, ‘it’s only a league game.’ That mentality may have been there years ago with Dublin but it’s absolutely not the case now.”

Andrews knows all about how hard it is to earn a sky blue jersey numbered 15 or lower.

An All-Star nominee in 2015, a back injury right before the beginning of the championship in May sidelined him for a long stretch and he returned to find his place in attack gone.

The 28-year-old rode the bench for most of the year, but his break came when he replaced the black-carded James McCarthy in the first-half of the drawn All-Ireland final.

Andrews grabbed his opportunity with both hands and kicked two fine scores. Suitably impressed, Gavin promoted the St Brigid’s man to his starting XV for the replay.

“From a personal point of view picking up an injury at the start of the championship is pretty much the worst possible time for that to happen,” says Andrews. “It (the injury) dragged on. The team moves on and guys step and perform.

“So that was the challenge. Once you come out of the team you have to work as hard as you possibly can to get back in. It was great by the end of the season to start the replay and get a couple of scores.

“Winning the All-Ireland was the ultimate for all of us and once we did that everyone is happy. All’s well that ends well.

“The thing that drives that is the competition,” continues Andrews. “I’m already itching to play O’Byrne Cup games because I know I want to get back in and get reestablished. That’s the challenge for guys.

“It’s a great position for the management team to be in, where every game matters. Every time a guy gets a nod whether it’s for ten minutes or you’re starting the game, you want to perform and you have to perform because if you don’t, you just won’t get the nod the next day.

“I hope it keeps going on and we certainly want it to and we’ll be every bit as focused at the start of 2017 as we were this year again.”

unnamed Andrews and Eoghan O'Donnell look on as Ryan Crotty takes centre-stage at the AIB Skills Challenge. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

The combination of culture and competition within the group is what makes them so special. Gavin has no favourites and every player finds out whether they’re starting or not the same way.

“In fairness with Jim, once he names the team that’s it. There is no real heads up. That’s the same across the board with all the players.

“Whether you are one year in the door or 10 years you find out when the team is named. So you don’t take anything for granted  even though I got a couple of scores the first day.

“So it was great to get in and get the nod. It wasn’t my best game in the replay, that final was a scrappy affair. Once we got over the line thing the main thing for all of us.”

Dublin sides of the past were accused of being arrogant, but this side couldn’t be any different. They’re a humble bunch, who brush off the media talk of legacies and back-to-back All-Irelands. No sooner has one obstacle been conquered and the focus quickly shifts to the next one.

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“Jim, Jason (Sherlock) and Declan (D’Arcy) and the guys that are with him just create a real culture of excellence and success. The players have bought into that.

“That’s the hardest thing to do. Dublin previously when we were unsuccessful didn’t have that real winning mentality and that culture, and that’s the hardest thing to create. It takes time to do that, it takes leadership and it takes buy-in from the players.

“All the players – not just four or five. It needs 32 or 33 lads that are there to buy into that and that’s our strongest asset. It’s that culture of when we train, we train as hard as we can.

“When we are preparing for our opposition we prepare as best as we can no matter who it is whether its Longford in the first round of the championship or Mayo in the All-Ireland final. The in-depth analysis and the work that goes on behind the scenes from the management team – the players buy into that.

“It just helps to create this real machine over the last couple of years and that is our biggest strength. It’s the stuff that the fans or the media mightn’t see.

“Its that work-rate that goes in and the team comes first across the board, and if you have that mentality and that culture from everyone you’ve got a great chance.”

Onimous words for the rest of the country.


To help launch the AIG Insurance new discounts for drivers and their spouse/partners, the AIG Skills Challenge brought together the All Ireland Champions Dublin and the Rugby World Champions the New Zealand All Blacks’ for a head to head sporting clash in Castleknock College.  

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