Jarlath Burns makes Jim Gavin chair of the Football Review Committee

New GAA president has been impressed with the former Dublin manager’s ‘higher-level thinking skills’

New GAA president Jarlath Burns has appointed a committee of high-profile intercounty managers to consider the problems facing football. In his first media engagement after congress, the former Armagh captain discussed the choice of former Dublin manager Jim Gavin as chair of the Football Review Committee.

“I really felt that this particular committee – and Jim isn’t the only big name; Malachy O’Rourke is on it, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Colm Collins; Colm Nally is on it – needed big names from the world of football, who have managed at the highest level. They understand the game, how to coach the game.

“I met Jim Gavin four times. I’ve been having meetings with him now since October. I have to be honest; I have never met somebody as impressive as he is. Even all of the preparations we have done, linking the rationale back to the strategic plan, doing all of that work that has to be done, putting out the terms of reference.

“He thinks in a way that nobody else I know thinks. His higher-level thinking skills are incredible. I know that he is going to bring all of those skills to that post, as well as all of the incredible people, who are on the committee.”


Gavin won an All-Ireland with Dublin as a player in 1995 and then as manager two Under-21 All-Irelands before embarking on a record-breaking career at senior level, which culminated in the unique achievement of five successive All-Irelands.

During Burns’s first address to congress as president, he had outlined some of the issues relevant to football.

“I have established a Football Review Group to completely take every aspect of the game apart and put it all together again with a view to making Gaelic football a more enjoyable spectacle to watch and play.

“As a former chair of the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, I can say I do not envy their task, because if I took 20 of you into a room and asked you your opinions, there would be 20 different perspectives on even what the problem is, never mind the solution.

“However, the sight of endless passing across the half-forward line, without any risks being taken, before the ball is channelled back to a midfielder who repeats the process from the other side of the pitch, is not what Gaelic football should be. I think we can all agree on that.”

Asked what was high on his list of priorities, he expanded on the theme.

“As somebody who played intercounty football, and somebody involved in the club, and somebody who goes to matches all of the time, you listen to what people are saying as well.

“Tom [Ryan, GAA director general] spoke very well in his report about it. You can go to 10 matches; you can see 10 incredible matches and you think the game is brilliant. Then you go to two or three matches and they aren’t so.

“As well as that the match between Derry and Donegal, the Ulster final two years ago: an awful lot of people, including myself, watched that game – an incredible game of attrition.

“There were unbelievable skills of football in that half-forward/half-back area where they were passing it, waiting for a break. A lot of people really enjoyed that and a lot of people said that this isn’t what this game should be. So, one of the first things we are going to have to do is figure out what does constitute a good game of football.”

The timeline for proposals will be the end of the year and not necessarily for next year’s congress.

“We’ll be hoping that there will be an interim report in December with the possibility of rule changes being trialled in January and it’ll be up to Árd Chomhairle, a lot of those things – this is conjecture from me.

“Maybe not even bringing it to congress but trialling them a wee bit longer and then bringing them to a special congress because congress has not had a great time changing rules.”

  • See our new project Common Ground, Evolving Islands: Ireland & Britain
  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times