Dublin U21 manager Jim Gavin insists there is nothing wrong with Gaelic football, claiming the evolution of the sport has made it an appealing game to watch.
Despite the Eugene McGee-led football review group being established by GAA president Liam O’Neill, 1995 All-Ireland winner Gavin says there is little to fix in the sport.
“I think Gaelic football is a very attractive sport to watch, particularly when you do analyse it critically and look at the tactics that are involved.
“At senior level each of the teams are very well prepared. Every team has a game plan and I just find it interesting to see what a game-plan is for a particular team and how they go about their business.
“Yes, it mightn’t be catch and kick and man-to-man of the ’70s or ’80s era. To me, this is progress.”
Gavin was one of the first managers to experience Jim McGuinness’ ultra-defensive style with Donegal in the 2010 U21 All-Ireland final.
He found the system intriguing, just as he has in watching McGuinness bring it forward to the senior stage.
“It’s very interesting the way tactics have evolved and that’s just the evolution of the game because managers and coaches are playing within the rules as they stand at the moment.
“It doesn’t matter how many hand-passes you can take or solos or how many people you put behind the ball, it’s up to the other coaches to break down that system. From an academic level, it’s fascinating.”
It surprises Gavin how tactics such as sweepers and half-forwards acting as auxiliary half-backs is seen as a new phenomenon.
He was part of a similar system during his playing days.
As he explained: “Well it was happening back in the ’90s because I would have experienced it with Pat O’Neill. He would have dropped me back as a defensive half-forward and Paul Clarke on the other side, so it was happening back then.
“Maybe people haven’t picked up on it. It’s probably more pronounced now with the analysis that goes on but I think it has always been there.”
In his fourth year with the U21s, Round Towers, Clondalkin man Gavin is seen as the heir apparent to Pat Gilroy in Dublin but maintains the job is not “on my radar”.
His current team have already gained a formidable reputation this year after steamrolling their way through most of Leinster before seeing off Cork.
Ahead of Sunday’s U21 All-Ireland final against Roscommon, he’s a mite annoyed the significance of their physicality has been overplayed.
“The way the modern game has developed, it is a contact sport and you need to prepare the guys for that contact but that’s about the end of it. We do a lot of work on the technical aspects of their defensive work and tackling.
“The physicality of it, I think, has more to do with intensity. It gets a misguided read about it, that it’s all to do with strength and conditioning and pumping weights and that. It’s more to do with a team’s attitude.”
He also appears to take umbrage at the idea Dublin’s game plan revolves solely around their much-vaunted forward Ciaran Kilkenny.
He uses the example of the semi-final win over Cork, when Kilkenny was virtually marked out of the game, to back up his point.
“My management team give the players a framework to work within but it’s not a constraining framework.
“Ultimately, you want them to perform and express themselves within that framework and that’s what we do.
“It’s not based around one individual player.
“I think you would have seen the evidence of that the last game against Cork.”
Gavin has high praise for his team, a group of players he believes have taken on the mantle of illustrating leadership.
“They have a job that they’ve committed themselves to do and certainly they have taken ownership of that process many months ago.
“We’re really on their coat-tails now and they’re driving it forward.”
Alan Carr (hamstring) and Ben Quinn (groin) are Gavin’s two main injury worries ahead of Sunday. Both will face fitness tests tomorrow.
Roscommon will have long-term groin injury victim Cathal Shine available.
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