Jim Gavin says he’s a ‘traditionalist at heart’ but reform of the inter-county calendar is an issue he has a radical view on.

Speaking ahead of today’s GAA/GPA All-Star game in Canton, where the Irish Cultural Centre in Boston is based, Dublin manager Gavin sees it as inevitable and necessary that the structure will change in the coming years.

Central to his vision of the future is a much earlier provincial championship and a Champions League-style All-Ireland series. But that would require big decisions being made, and for Gavin the ending of the League would be a significant step towards it.

“The whole Championship structure has to change,” said Gavin. “I’m still a traditionalist at heart and think there could still be scope to play the provincial competitions because I know it means a lot to the Dublin players to win their province and to compete.

“I still think, though, that in the overall Championship, there is scope to look at that again.

“There’s momentum there. That should be part of the overall package but I think there are plenty of models that have been posed out there, from the great work Eugene McGee has done with his committee. It’s not going to happen next year but large changes will have to happen.”

Gavin accepted that his vision for change could mean some teams might play fewer inter-county games, without the seven League games, but Championship games would be much more meaningful to players, he suggested.

He said it was “unacceptable” that some counties still only got two Championship games in a year.

“I think we should hold on to those competitions,” he said of the provincial Championships. “They’re the only pure knockout competition we have left at senior level and there’s great enjoyment in that and a lot on the line.

“Each time we play a Leinster match we know we have to win to move on because there’s no back door in your province. It’s a great competition.

“Possibly one model is to play those provincial competitions earlier in the year and to move to your group format for the Championship series.

“I think it’s unacceptable that you’re giving teams that prepare for six months of the year potentially two games. I can understand how players would get frustrated.”

Gavin believes the loss of League games can be offset by some creative thinking with how an All-Ireland series could be run off.

“There are many formats that you can do in a competitive League series and at the same time affording credit to the teams that have done well in their provincial competitions earlier in the season on the road,” he said.

“But again things can be pushed out, there is no need why we should all return in January, we have to have a close season as well, I accept that. There is radical change required.

“The format mightn’t just be you play the teams within your own group. We see it in American sports, in NFL, where you can cross into various conferences. There are various models that can be looked at, but my view on it would be that there has to be more games given at a Championship level for teams.”

The time-frame for potential change will depend on administration, he says.

“It depends on the leadership group within the GAA. They’re the influencers of the Association. Obviously a proposal has to come from some club or some committee that’s been set up but there’s no reason why it can’t.”

In the short term Gavin supports an August end to the Championships and feels a two-week break between Championship matches is sufficient for any team.”

He also believes there is “merit” in a two-tier Championship but “would be very reluctant to get on my soap box and preach that from a Dublin perspective, where we might be perceived to be one of the stronger teams.”

Meanwhile Gavin has re-iterated his view that Dublin will stay true to their core values of attacking play in 2015 despite their defeat to Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final. He said lessons would be learned but was adamant that he had no regrets about how the team played that day.

“Some of our systems broke down for a few reasons but in principle we’d take the same approach,” he insisted.

(Irish Independent)
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