Back door aids Dubs double bid -- Gavin
THE 'real' championship doesn't begin until August, according to Dublin's 1995 All-Ireland winner Jim Gavin.
And despite the fact that contenders have had to negotiate an All-Ireland quarter-final ever since the qualifiers were introduced back in 2001, Gavin believes it's now easier to win the Sam Maguire in successive years under the current system.
"I think it's easier actually because you can have an off day up to the quarter-finals. That, to me, is when the championship really starts," Gavin said.
"I have to choose my words carefully, but it's different. To a traditionalist like me, it's not championship football in the purest sense of the word. Championship football to me is when you win, you move on, and when you lose, you're gone. That was the beauty of the old system."
That system meant Dublin didn't get a second chance when they were dumped out of the Leinster Championship by Meath in '96, but Gavin believes the Dubs would have blossomed in the back door back then.
"I think we would have rallied well," he said. "It would have been the kick up the backside that we probably needed.
"But I wouldn't have changed it back then. I just like that knockout edge to the competition.
"Would it have added an edge to the game when we were beaten by Meath? We probably would have pulled up with 10 minutes to go, but we fought to the very end and were just beaten by a better team."
And Gavin, who steered Dublin to the All-Ireland U-21 title this year, sees a growing appetite for major change in the structure of the championship.
"I think broadly speaking the provincial councils probably want to hold onto the power base that they have, and that's understandable," he said.
"There's a massive tradition there within each province. So it's whether we go to a provincial cup system and have it in isolation and have a separate All-Ireland championship format that allows the league to be integrated in.
"Certainly there are formats out there that have been suggested, that could marry some sort of league format that would get you into a knockout stage. Have it so that each game has some relevance."
Gavin has been touted as the next Dublin senior manager but he refused to be drawn on the topic, instead pointing out that Pat Gilroy's side are well placed to become the first Dubs team to retain the All-Ireland since 1977.
"I think they're in a good position to go and get back-to-back All-Irelands. There's fantastic talent within the group. I wouldn't be too concerned about the league campaign," he said.
"They know what they have in terms of the players to have a championship team to pick from, so it's well within their compass to go on and win back-to-back All-Irelands.
"The challenges obviously are that teams will be as hungry as they will be. They showed great determination last year to haul themselves over the line and the challenge for this group of players is to replicate that hunger they had in 2011."