Gavin: Bring back bin
INTER-COUNTY managers have a long-established reputation for putting the boot into most proposals emanating from the committee rooms of Croke Park.
Any well-intentioned move to eradicate cynicism, stamp out foul play or generally transform the way the game has come to be played, tend to be shot down by the bainisteoir brigade.
Jim Gavin has only been at the senior coalface for a few short weeks, but already he has set his stall out on the big question of tackling on-field indiscipline.
The Dublin boss is not one for following the sideline consensus: he reckons the Football Review Committee should have gone even further by bringing back the sin-bin instead of its latest black card alternative.
As a disincentive against cynical or repeated foul play, the use of the sin-bin has been a big success in rugby, with both the individual (who is sent to the line) and his team immediately punished for a set period of 10 minutes. The GAA briefly dallied with a similar experiment in early 2005, only for it to be shot down in a welter of public recrimination from inter-county managers.
Eight years on, the GAA has come up with an alternative plan to stymie the on-field cynics with a specified list of five infractions that would see the offender sent off for the remainder of the game, to be replaced by a substitute, with no such replacements allowed beyond three per team.
At yesterday's Allianz Football League launch in Croke Park, Gavin made it clear that he believes the FRC could have gone even further.
"I met with (FRC chairman) Eugene McGee over the Christmas period and we spoke because I wanted to get a view on where his ideas were coming from," the Dublin manager explained.
"I still believe that the sin-bin is the only way to deal with it. If you give the guy the black tick, the game is slowed down and he's achieved his aim.
"Yeah, he might go off the pitch but it gives the opposition time to set up their defensive systems. The only way to hurt a team is to get them in the sin-bin and have them down a man straight away. I think it was working before, except that some managers didn't like it, but I would certainly endorse the sin-bin straight off."
When it was suggested that his fellow managers had been at the vanguard of previous resistance to such measures, Gavin replied: "Well, I think that's because the managers have the soapbox. That's why they give their opinions.
"The Uachtaran Cumann Luathcleas Gael has set up a committee, they come back with their recommendations, they go to Central Council and that's how it's done. Ultimately, the managers shouldn't have the power. The power base comes from club level."
While accepting that the black card proposal has "gained momentum" and the support of referees, he added: "I still wouldn't lose hope for the sin-bin. I think Eugene's concern was that it mightn't work at club level or at underage, but I've seen it used in schoolboy rugby and it's worked perfectly well there.
"It marries in with this aim to get more respect for referees and that (rugby) is a sport where there's definitely a high level of respect for officials. We still have some work to do with that.
"Their suggestion of moving the ball up 30 metres for any backchat to the referee will fairly quieten players down, which I think is a positive step. So if we can get the respect for the referees, then the sin-bin won't be an issue because it will just be a matter of this is the rule and let's get on with it."
Immediately following last Saturday's O'Byrne Cup final defeat by Kildare, when Dublin midfielder Denis Bastick received a straight red card following an extra-time melee, Gavin made it clear that he won't tolerate indiscipline. But he also highlighted the root cause of that fracas - cynical play and the referee's failure to eradicate it at source.
During last year's league, Pat Gilroy's Dublin endured a poor disciplinary run with a succession of players either sent off or falling prey to retrospective suspension.
"What happened in the past is in the past," Gavin maintained. "But certainly having a disciplined approach - an aggressive approach but within the boundaries of the rules - has always been a cornerstone of my coaching philosophy ... they (the players) are under no illusions of how I stand on that."
Bastick now stands to miss the first two rounds of the league - against Cork in Croke Park next Saturday night, followed by Kerry away on Sunday week - as a four-week time suspension rather than match bans apply for the O'Byrne Cup.
Gavin indicated that the player won't be appealing, saying: "He attempted to strike and that's what it says in the rules ... if you do that, you get sent off.
"Where I might have the issue is, he was struck before he struck so he reacted to being struck, and then another opposition player came in and struck him again - yet a Dublin player gets sent off.
"So it's not a frustration for me," he added. "My issue is the consistency of the application. If three strike, well then that means three players go off."
Warming to his 'consistency' theme, the Dublin manager expanded: "The FRC have done sterling work, they've really tried to define the tackle. We've been kicking this can around for long enough now trying to define the tackle.
"Certainly I believe that the rules themselves are quite solid - it just needs a bit of polish. A bit of polish in terms of the definition of the tackle will serve us no end, the pulling and dragging and all that stuff which is spoiling our game."