There was widespread shock late last November when on a seemingly quiet Saturday, Dublin GAA released a statement confirming Jim Gavin’s departure as senior football manager.
Just two months previously, the side completed a historic five-in-a-row and after the All-Ireland replay, all indications from Gavin himself suggested that he was ready to continue for another year.
However, it wasn’t just the general public who were taken aback by the news but the Dublin players themselves who set sat down for a meeting in Innisfails with Gavin, Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock that same morning.
“I think one or two of the lads might have had an inkling, a funny feeling about it, but for me, no, it was a complete surprise”, admitted Jack McCaffrey.
“It was completely understandable and fair enough. It was quite sad for a day or two and then you quickly come to grips with the fact that life goes on for us and we go again next year.”
Gavin has forever written himself into Dublin GAA folklore as the man who oversaw the completion of the elusive five-in-a-row but beyond that, his impact on the players was profound.
“For seven years of my life, he was the most important person outside of my family. It was tough at times no doubt, as is everything with inter-county football, but it was really enjoyable.
“We’ve been very lucky to have some phenomenal days out and I suppose with all that management team, (I’m) lucky enough to call them friends at this point. Way, way down the line when all this nonsense is finished, we can meet up at some point and shoot the breeze.
“Knowing Jim, the last thing he would want is for us to kick back and spend this year thinking about how great a time we had in the past. The best thing we can do for him is to row in behind Dessie now and kind of drive on and push our standards a little bit further.”
The announcement of Dessie Farrell as Gavin’s successor just 13 days after galvanised the Dublin squad, according to McCaffrey, and closed the chapter on their fruitful journey throughout the previous decade.
Farrell is no stranger to the former Footballer of the Year having trained various development squads as McCaffrey was rising through the ranks and was their manager at minor level.
McCaffrey believes he was the “logical choice” for the job.
“I think looking at his credentials and his progression over the last while, it was a very logical choice and a very good choice for Dublin. I think that, yeah, for us who have played under him it’s great, but, equally, there’s a lot of positivity from the entire group because there’s an awful lot of people there who haven’t.
“It’s kind of like from my age down that Dessie would have had a hand in. And for everyone older than me, he wouldn’t. There’s plenty in those camps. I think the group as a whole have all heard very positive things.
“Dessie was great when he was managing me because, first of all, he had some really good people around him. He was very good at managing each individual player on a personal level which is pretty important at that minor and underage level and equally so at senior.
“And, then, I suppose he has first-hand experience of being an inter-county player. He understands the pressures that go with it. The drivers that are there.
“And he can tap into that pretty well. I don’t know what exactly his approach will be this year, we haven’t started yet. But pretty excited to see what it is.”
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