Evan Comerford proves his worth as Dublin flex muscles for first time in 2019 3 weeks ago

Evan Comerford proves his worth as Dublin flex muscles for first time in 2019

This is Jim Gavin's seventh season with Dublin.

In the time since he took over in 2013, he's won five of the six National Leagues he could have won (five of Dublin's 13 in their history). He's won five of the six All-Irelands too and he's lost just 10 games in total.

10.

Kerry (3), Monaghan (2), Cork (2), Tyrone, Derry and Donegal are the only counties to have bettered Dublin over 70 minutes of league or championship football since February 2013 and not only has Jim Gavin never been defeated twice in succession, but he's never lost three games in an entire year as manager of the capital's seniors.

Since 2015, the only team who have really come close to Dublin has been Mayo. They've met Dublin in two of the last four All-Ireland finals - and a semi-final in there as well - and they've managed to take them to a replay at both of those stages but never - ever - has Jim Gavin lost to Mayo.

Mayo and Dublin is the great rivalry of modern football but you have to wonder if Jim Gavin sees it that way.

And it was just business as usual for Dublin and Gavin on Saturday.

The two-week break allowed the All-Ireland champions to recall some familiar faces, get more training into the post-holiday legs and focus firmly on the real challenged being posed by a resurgent Mayo.

Maybe that's the problem for the men from the west. Whilst everyone else - barring Kerry - gets the chance to catch Dublin even just slightly off their game, they will never take Mayo for granted. Whenever Mayo come to town, Dublin are at it. When you're the best of the rest - like Mayo have been - the best will always raise their game for you and the opportunities for Mayo to beat them don't come as easily as they might for the rest.

So, they rolled up to Jones' Road and they met Jack McCaffrey on from the start. Ciaran Kilkenny a late inclusion - his first appearance of the year. Cormac Costello under even more pressure to perform and somehow managing to up it again from the previous weeks. And a more aggressive, more manic Dublin side who seemed to be woken up in Tralee two weeks ago.

Mayo came in with their three wins from three and they were kicked back out on the road home with seven comfortable points separating the sides.

And do you know what? It would've been the easiest thing in the world for Jim Gavin to recall Stephen Cluxton, the orchestrator, the safe hands, the captain. With no more room for error, with an undefeated Mayo side in town, few eyelids would've been batted at the decision to bring back Cluxton after a tough night for Evan Comerford in Kerry.

But the manager obviously trusts the understudy of the best goalkeeper of all time and, in their biggest game of the season so far, the Ballymun native showed some real mettle.

When Dublin needed a playmaker from their own 20', Comerford was pulling strings. When they needed a calm head, Comerford didn't freak. On Saturday night, he looked like he belonged in Croke Park as he picked out inches of its turf for fun and kept the Dublin machine turning like... well, like Cluxton himself was in the controls room.

And, to top it all off, he produced a fine penalty stop in the first half too, to deny Jason Doherty.

He read where it was going, he acted with his head before reacting like a cat with his body and managed to turn away a decent, decent strike from Doherty.

As it was, Dublin afforded Mayo just seven miserly points across 77 minutes of football. Comerford gave them nothing that he was in control of.

When other managers might've deemed it too big a risk to throw him in again for this game of all games, Gavin saw it as an opportunity, and Comerford used it to announce his bottle and all his talent.

He'll be alright, that one.