Jim Gavin backs use of squad numbers in Gaelic football
Dublin manager says traditional numbers do not reflect the evolution of the game
Full forward Paddy Andrews, who wore the number two jersey for Dublin against Wexford in the O’Byrne Cup last weekend. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Dublin’s footballers will continue to operate off squad numbers as opposed to traditional team selections for the remainder of the O’Byrne Cup. Manager Jim Gavin has defended the move and also believes it may offer some commercial opportunities for county boards in their promotion of elite players.
The Dublin team for Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup opener against Wexford at Enniscorthy was presented as such: with the exception of goalkeeper Michael Savage, who was listed at number one, the rest of the 24-man panel were simply listed numerically, and in alphabetical order. Paddy Andrews, for example, wore the number two jersey and started at full forward; John Small, who was listed at number 22, started at centre back.
“I’m not going to say it is the future,” said Gavin, “but it is something you would look at, particularly at this stage of the season, when you don’t know who is fit to play, and how they got over the Christmas break.
“There were a few tired bodies and we will probably need to manage the players when they turn up again on Wednesday night [against Carlow IT], with the various knocks and niggles. So it is probably something we will use again in the competition.”
The problem on Sunday was that the Dublin squad numbers weren’t made available to anyone in attendance (including the media), either as a team sheet or via public announcement; nor indeed was Wexford’s traditional team selection, which meant many of those in attendance (despite the €10 admission charge) were left clueless as to which players were actually on display, never mind where they were actually playing.
For Gavin, however, the idea of squad numbers for match-day purposes may well be the way forward: “I think it has merit. For the supporters it might make things a little clearer with the game-day panel, because the way the game is evolving, it’s not just about the game-day panel any more, as it was in the 80s and even 90s. So it’s something we might look at in the future.
“I think supporters accept now that the squad is so adaptable and flexible and dynamic that there are lots of changes, and that if a guy is named in a particular position, for example corner forward, he might not be playing in that position.
“And even from a commercial perspective, for county boards, it might be something to promote the elite players in their counties.”
Indeed most professional team sports operate off squad numbers as opposed to traditional team selections. If Dublin were to adopt squad numbers on a permanent basis, Andrews, for example, might be given the number two jersey for the entire season – and replica jerseys might then be sold on that basis.
Under GAA rule, and as a result of a motion passed at Congress last February, for all senior intercounty championship games, counties are required to submit their official team line-out (15 players and a maximum of 11 additional panel members, bringing the total to the traditional match-day panel of 26) to the committee in charge by 9am on the Thursday before a weekend game. However, there is no obligation to list these players in the position in which they will actually play.
The Waterford hurlers effectively adopted a similar strategy last summer by naming a starting team that rarely reflected any actual starting positions, beyond the goalkeeper.
Whatever about squad numbers, Gavin will continue to operate off a significantly weakened panel against Carlow IT. As well as confirming that All-Ireland winning full back Rory O’Carroll is to spend 2016 in New Zealand, Gavin will have none of the Ballyboden St Enda’s contingent available (including Michael Darragh Macauley) until they conclude their run in the All-Ireland club championship.
“Michael Darragh is with Ballyboden St Enda’s,” said Gavin. “I’ve spoken to Andy McEntee [the club manager] on that and they’ll be committed to the club, and we wish them the very best in the All-Ireland club semi-final.
“We’ve got 12 other guys that we would like to look at, but they are with the colleges. And we have those games scouted. There’ll be few more who are with the under-21s and a few who have niggles. We are only guaranteed three games and we’ll see where that brings us.”
It was also confirmed that Philly McMahon will miss Dublin’s opening game in the Allianz Football League against Kerry at Croke Park on Saturday night, January 30th. McMahon was given a one-match ban for an incident with Kieran Donaghy in the All-Ireland final, and he decided against appealing it.
The ban will apply to the next intercounty game of similar status, which in this case is the opening round of the Allianz Football League as the O’Bryne Cup does not qualify.
Sunday’s Dublin team in this newspaper should have listed Eoin Culligan as being from Kilmacud Crokes.