February 07, 1992
This time last year there was the distant possibility that fair-weather GAA supporters West of the Shannon hadn't heard of Enon Gavin. Outside of his beloved Roscommon homeland, the young county starlet and Clan na Gael star was a fairly unknown quantity.
With a talent as novel and as rare as his own Christian name, young Gavin was soon to change the tone of discussions which revolved around his growing stature in the game of gaelic football countrywide. The jocular perception that the All Star elect was a Jewish footballing rookie saved by Roscommon's Clan from their namesakes burning cross in Alabama would, in a matter of weeks, be swallowed by nobody other than the last remaining Playboys of the Western World.
Ever since making his senior inter county debut against Donegal on the first Sunday in March last year, Enon Gavin's star has been rising and rising. It's appropriate then that the country's critical eyes should officially recognise the Gavin phenomena by bestowing an All Star award on the Roscommon corner back. In religious parlance, the universal response to his accolade would be something on the lines of "right and fitting".
Traditionally reserved in welcoming new blood into the county panel, Roscommon supporters weren't overly ecstatic though when Clan na nGaels newest star was drafted in to join the creme de la creme of footballing talent at county training. Though he had played well in Clan's defeat at the hands of Salthill in the Connacht Club Championship in December 1990, the word prodigy wasn't something attached to the name of Enon Gavin in the clubrooms across the county. In fact, manager Martin McDermott must be commended for having the courage of his convictions to stand by his decision to bring in Gavin in the face of criticism from some quarters that the 20 year old newcomer was far too inexperienced and naive for senior county football. The county manager's conviction and the player's own ambition soon proved the sceptics wrong. A star was in the making,
Asked to police flame-haired Donegal ace attacker Declan Bonner, the Roscommon newcomer came through his National League baptism of fire without a scorch mark. Gavin clung to Bonner's citeog like an extra digit and virtually nullified the veteran Railway Cup player's every twist and turn. As an added bonus, his colleagues alongside him in defence gelled exceptionally well to restrict McEniff's side to just four points in a 1-10 to 0-4 victory. A star was born.
The first All Star award winner in the county since club made Tony McManus was honoured two years ago, Eno's athleticism and concentration on the field of play has earmarked him down for a lengthy sojourn in the Roscommon colours. Some observers have even stuck their necks out and suggested that he can go on to become an even greater icon in the West than the aforementioned McManus, Mayo's Willie Joe and the superannuated Dermot Early. As so many in the past have experienced to their cost, stardom can weigh heavily on one so young but shrewd, wise old heads in the county confirm the level-headedness of their rock-solid defender.
Good luck to the punters who put their money where their mouths operated to acclaim Enon in backing the county's new star at the beginning of the year, to scoop an All Star award ahead of Donegal's Matt Gallagher and Terry Ferguson of Meath. At the close of season '90/'91 there could have been no doubt but that the man from the west would do best in the eyes of the All Star judges. Top class performances against Dublin's Jack Sheedy and Mayo's Paul McStay sandwiched Enon's best 70 minutes of the year. Strong and an intelligent reader of the game, Roscommon's new boy was a defender in a class of his own in his side's victory over Leitrim in June at Carrick-on-Shannon.
Tony McManus' outstanding performances deservedly earned him the Man of the Match award but equally significant, it was a tie in which Enon Gavin truly emerged as a player out of the top drawer. Yet, there were still some doubting Thomases who feared that the Connacht Final showdown against Mayo would leave the inexperienced Gavin gasping for sanctuary in the dug-out before the duration of the scheduled 70 minutes. History will record otherwise, the annals of Roscommon GAA have been embellished with the flair and creativity of messr. Gavin.
Roscommon's eleventh All Star earned his spurs the hard way however. Reckoned to be one of the fastest men off the mark in the world of gaelic football, his innate acceleration and Red Rum-type stamina made him Martin McDermott's number one option in attempting to curtail Bernard Flynn's influence on their All-Ireland semi final clash. Outrunning, outjumping and outclassing Flynn made Gavin's bid for an All Star a fait accompli. If the Roscommon youngster launched himself into the pole position for the coveted award, by virtue of his Connacht championship display, his Croke Park exhibition carved the name Enon Gavin on the trophy.
Unlike an attacker who can rely on the "surprise & unknown" factors to help him find his feet (and room) on the pitch, a raw unbloodied defender must manufacture and organise his own survival and ultimate prosperity through the difficult learning period. For one so young, and in his first year of football in the top grade, Enon Gavin has had an exceptional year, one which must have exceeded the most optimistic limits of his own exceptions. A county championship medal, a provincial medal and an All Star award inside 12 months is a feat unlikely to be repeated by another inter county football debutant.
Great defenders are invariably an underrated breed. Very often though they are the statesmen of the team, Enon Gavin is not far away from joining that elite group. Mister Consistency in 1991, another few seasons like last year's and he'll rank alongside the great backs of the modern era. One can only presume that Enon's penchant for striding forward with the ball in support of his frontmen has led to media gurus comparing him with former Dub Kevin Moran.
Amazingly, Roscommon's new sensation failed to clinch a Railway Cup place in 1991, an honour achieved by eight others in the Roscommon team but with at least ten good years left in those 21 year old legs, provincial "caps" will flow his way like the waters of Shannon through his native county. Injuries apart, there's no doubt that Enon Gavin should be a permanent fixture on the national stage for many years to come. Certainly the prospect of being in a positive position with Clan na nGael to challenge for his first Connacht club medal and being an integral part of an ambitious Roscommon camp hungry for All-Ireland glory, should combine to focus the 21 year old's attention on maintaining the standards he set for himself in 1991.
Now officially listed amongst the best player sin the country, Enon's rise to the top of his sport carries with it a great responsibility. For many young footballers around the country but especially those at his home club of Clan na nGael, Enon will be viewed as a role model. In his role as Mister Versatile in the Roscommon line-up, he has been a model performer.
Enon Gavin, a queer name but great stuff, as they say in Strokestown, Elphin, Boyle ...
Taken from Hogan Stand
7th February 1992
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