And so Jim Gavin walked off into the sunset, enigmatic to the last.
There was the odd morsel to be taken from his brief blur of media interviews yesterday, shortly after he had been named Signify Manager of the Year, but the jigsaw as to why he left Dublin, and why he decided to leave in late November, was left well short of some key pieces.
The decision to walk away last week wasn’t down to any change in work circumstances. That he told us.
He remains assistant director of the Irish Aviation Authority but he mentioned a combination of work, family, and the needs of Dublin GAA when explaining his thought process.
There was no eureka moment, it seems.
“No. After every campaign, and it hasn’t changed in the last 12 years, I reflect on the season that has gone by. Obviously I need to talk to the Dublin County Board about it and then I reflect on the season ahead. This season was no different.
“I had to make a decision on, and reflect on, what’s best for my family, my work in aviation, and indeed Dublin GAA. And the conclusion that I came to after all of that, that’s what’s best for Dublin football team and indeed Dublin GAA, is for me to hand over the reins for season ahead.”
There was a brief mention of ‘changed circumstances’ and the desire to see the team ‘grow again’ but don’t mistake that for any realisation or admission that his exit was borne of a suspicion that the team needed fresh eyes and a fresh voice. There was no staleness at play here.
“No. They are your words not mine.”
What seems clearer is the road ahead.
Gavin’s military background hasn’t left him. Planning for the 2020 season with the Dublin footballers was always at the forefront of his mind, even as he questioned whether or not he would give it an eighth campaign.
His loss to the inter-county scene will be considerable.
And not just for now. There was the revelation — if it could be called as much — at one point that he won’t be taking up the reins with any other county down the line.
His next coaching gig comes tonight when he runs the rule over his club’s U11s, both hurlers and footballers.
That’s no surprise after seven years listening to him lauding the grassroots and the ordinary volunteer. The trademark modesty was apparent on stage when, on accepting his latest award, he dedicated it to his entire staff, the team, and to Dublin GAA at large.
If Joe Schmidt can describe himself as the reluctant coach then Jim Gavin is the reticent general. In public, anyway.
It seems extraordinary given the six All-Irelands and all the other trophies he won, but all the indications are that Gavin will slip back into the background from whence he came back in 2012. It’s not like he’s the type to pop up on.
His response when asked whether Stephen Cluxton would give it another year was a masterclass in obfuscation and he proved just as elusive when it was put to him that his own absence from the Dublin scene might spur on his county’s competitors next year.
I can’t speak about other counties. We’ve always focused in on trying to be our best, that’s all we could ever do. We took a very players-centric approach and I’m sure it will be the same with the next coach.
As for who that will be? Well, Gavin wasn’t going to go there either. Gavin has plans to watch the Dubs from the stands with his family from here on in but he won’t be the type to loom over his successor.
There were no words of advice offered for his successor yesterday.
Gavin walks away as the most successful football manager the GAA has ever seen at inter-county level. What’s clear is that he has left nothing behind him. He has given 22 years of service, 10 as a player, five with the U21s and seven with the seniors.
The ‘job’ has changed even since assuming the last of those roles from Pat Gilroy but he has espoused the values of amateurism and he leaves holding fast to the belief that, while demanding, the role of inter-county manager is still doable in a ‘part-time’ capacity.
“It’s a choice you make,” he explained. “I had no issue giving the time I gave. One’s life is defined by the choices you make. I volunteered my time and I’m proud of being involved with it.
I won’t have any regrets, that is for sure. I gave it my all for as long as I could. I’m just really excited for 2020 and excited for the team and to see what will happen with them.