Wednesday 26 June 2019

Jim McGuinness reckons new rules could inspire a return of Dublin’s old swashbuckling ways

Jim Gavin. Photo: Sportsfile
Jim Gavin. Photo: Sportsfile

Frank Roche

REMEMBER the swashbuckling Dubs of 2013-14? The great entertainers who blazed a trail of destruction through the league, Leinster and beyond?

Well, Jim McGuinness reckons we could see a second coming if the new rules being trialled over the coming months become a long-term reality from 2020 onwards.

The irony is that McGuinness was the Donegal manager chiefly responsible for ending Jim Gavin’s original iteration of Sky Blue thrillers – thanks to his ambush of Dublin in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

Moreover, it’s a measure of the enduring fascination with all things McGuinness that he was peppered with GAA queries at yesterday’s media briefing to mark his appointment as head coach of an American soccer club, the Charlotte Independence of the USL.

“I don’t know if the gap is closing on Dublin,” Donegal’s erstwhile Midas Man began.

“Dublin are an exceptional football team. They continue to move forward, every young lad in the city wants to play for the team. All these young lads that are winning U21s (All-Irelands) are not even getting close to the squad, so they will be going back to their clubs looking to prove a point. It’s a fantastic position for them to be in.”

But does McGuinness think that the new rules will, if passed, change anything?

“I have been following bits and pieces over the last few weeks and Dublin are very vociferous in terms of the new rules as they will impact on Dublin hugely,” he said.

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“They have now morphed into this really controlled, possession-based game so the handpass rule will impact on them,” he added, alluding to the new restriction of three consecutive passes via hand.

Plans for a more radically transformed kickout landscape, forcing every restart beyond the 45m line, were ditched before we even got to O’Byrne Cup first base.

Instead, all kickouts merely will be taken from the 20m line, so it’s a moot point what effect, if any, this will have on Stephen Cluxton’s pivotal influence.

Still, as McGuinness views it, the two chief weapons in Dublin’s tactical arsenal are “the capacity to play possession football, draw the opposition out, wait for the space and play behind that space; and the capacity to use their goalkeeper to go and attack”

He added: “That’s why you see the players coming out and saying that they don’t like the rules; some of the ex-players saying that the rules are not really favourable. Everyone has their own interest at heart, that’s every county, saying ‘how will this impact on us?’.

“If they think it’s good, they will go out and say the rules are great and vice versa.”

However, Gavin and his players “will adapt”, McGuinness insisted.

He added: “What could happen is that they revert to what they were doing when Jim Gavin took over, that sort of swashbuckling, aggressive kicking game that was almost unstoppable – to my mind, the best brand of football I have seen in many, many years.

“I think it’s more controlled and conservative now; more efficient, if you like. I remember the league final against Derry a few years ago (2014), the way they kicked the ball and won the ball, runners off the shoulder, it was phenomenal.

“So every cloud has a silver lining and even though they won’t like it in the short term, it could end up bringing that style back to the fore very quickly, as he has already adapted that and will know how to coach it in a heartbeat.”

Last question: if he was back in GAA, would he fancy another crack at the Dubs?

“Of course you would relish it. Everybody is talking about five-in-a-row. It was Offaly in everybody’s mind the last time on the five-in-a-row. You become an iconic team because you’re the team that stops it. You would absolutely relish it.”

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