New president Jarlath Burns brings big names together to tackle future of Gaelic football

Jarlath Burns began his three-year term as GAA president at Saturday's annual Congress in Newry. Picture by Sportsfile
Jarlath Burns began his three-year term as GAA president at Saturday's annual Congress in Newry. Picture by Sportsfile (SPORTSFILE)

A STELLAR collection of Gaelic football’s leading managers have been enlisted to look at the future of the game.

Alongside former Dublin boss Jim Gavin, fellow All-Ireland winner Eamonn Fitzmaurice – whose Kerry side did battle with Gavin’s men on several occasions – Malachy O’Rourke, who led Glen to the All-Ireland club title last month, ex-Clare manager Colm Collins and the experienced Colm Nally will all be part of the GAA’s new football review committee.

That impressive line-up was confirmed by new the president of the Association, Jarlath Burns, after he took over the chain of office from Larry McCarthy on Saturday, with the aim to develop ways to make the modern game more attractive.

A study last year - led by John Tobin, chairman of the national coaching and games committee – found a significant increase in hand-passing, uncontested kick-outs and backward passes, amid ongoing criticism of the possession-based modern game.

And Burns feels six-time All-Ireland winner Gavin has a huge part to play.

“I felt I really needed big names from the world of football, who have managed at the highest level. They understand the game, how to coach the game,” he said.

“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.”

Malachy O'Rourke's ability to keep everyone onside while managing tricky situations is part of what makes him a great manager. Picture: Mark Marlow
Malachy O'Rourke led Derry champions Glen to the All-Ireland title last month. Picture by Mark Marlow (SYSTEM)

Having spent 16 years playing with Armagh before moving into the world of GAA administration, while son Jarly Og is part of Kieran McGeeney’s current Orchard squad, Burns insists he has listened to all concerns about how the game has evolved through the years.

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

“[GAA director general] Tom [Ryan] 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, where there was 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.”