Modern coaching has taken risk out of football - Boylan
No-one knows how long the journey will take or how dirty the road might be, but Sean Boylan says those charged with improving Gaelic football are "trying to clear the windscreen".
The four-time All-Ireland-winning Meath manager, part of the new Standing Committee on Playing Rules under chairman Jarlath Burns, was at Royal County Down yesterday to launch a charity GAA match taking place in Newcastle in the same week as the Irish Open golf tournament.
He described his surroundings as "elegant"; certainly not a word anyone could use to define a lot of football matches seen this year.
Boylan fears predictable coaching and a fear of losing are causing counties to lose their identity and the calling cards that once made them great.
"What makes the game really attractive? It's not knowing what is going to happen next and the little bit of risk.
"It's about not being afraid to trust your fellow player to fight for the ball and win it. The art of how to position yourself to win a ball and lay it off, these are things you don't want to see lost.
"Now you see lads are in a great position to have a shot but the system says you must recycle it. It's all about possession.
"Everybody is being coached the same way and teams have lost their identity. All these things need to be looked at and we have only had one meeting yet but we're trying to clear the windscreen to see what's ahead."
Boylan cited two-time All-Ireland-winning full-back Darren Fay as an example of how managers should think creatively instead of becoming slaves to statistics and coaching manuals.
"Before the Leinster Championship in '96, Mick Lyons and Joe Cassells asked me: 'How did you get the fouling out of the Darren?'
"When he came in first, every time he went for a ball he put his hand on the man's back or conceded a free. I told them I played him in 12 league games and wouldn't take him off.
"Sometimes taking a man off is easy, he can bitch about the manager, but I wanted to see how he could cope when things weren't going well. Then he went 25 championship matches before anybody scored two points off him. Teams are too quick discard a man too easily now rather than see what he can do."
Boylan inspired Meath to end Dublin's domination of Leinster in 1986 and while he sees no obvious stumbling block to the Dubs running amok in the province again this summer, he sees problems ahead for Jim Gavin's side.
Although it's been suggested they are a wiser, meaner outfit because of their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal last year, Boylan senses they are still vulnerable.
"They are there or thereabouts, (but) they are not the finished article. They have an incredible work ethic, there doesn't seem to be an ego among them, but it is just so hard to keep the consistency of what they are doing.
"Human nature being what it is, they might just be caught and if they're not going to get good matches in Leinster, that's going to be difficult for them."
However, Boylan would not be his effervescent self without believing Meath are capable of causing an upset.
"I know a lot depends on whether Mickey Newman or Kevin Reilly are fit, but I think Meath have a lot of potential, and I'm not saying that because I'm from there - they do.
"We went out against Kildare last year and for 45 minutes played exhilarating football, and then went into a shell and never came out of it. I don't know what happened but if you can do it for 45 minutes, you can do it for 70.
"Rather than look at the negatives, look at the positives. You have to allow people to express themselves."