In the moments after the final this year, I was convinced Gavin was saying goodbye. His salutes to the crowd suggested everything of a man leaving. But the more time that passed, the more that feeling waned. Once we hit early October I was convinced he was staying on.
My initial reaction was complete shock. It still is. We’ve been so blessed in these 7 years that its almost hard to remember just what it was like not having Gavin as our manager. The GAA world was so different 7 years ago. What he has achieved in this period will never be topped. Not in our lifetimes anyway.
When I heard the news, I actually thought it was a hoax. The timing just made no sense at all. The noise I’d heard from all corners was he was most definitely planning for 2020 and beyond. I had comforted myself that we were going to see Jim stay in charge for many years to come. Something must have come up outside of football. The only explanation for it being now.
Selfishly, I wanted him to stay on, but after achieving the 5 in a row, this year was the right time to leave, albeit a few weeks later than I would have expected if he was going to leave. His legacy will be unmatched. Heffo will probably go down as the manager who had the biggest influence on Dublin GAA, but Jim Gavin will go down as our greatest of all time.
Over the last few days I’ve been thinking about what we’ve seen in his tenure. 2013 & 2014 was the best football I’ve seen any team play. The Kerry game in 2013 will never be matched for quality. During these 2 years it was Harlem Globetrotters style football. It was just a joy to behold.
Obviously our style of play changed from then on. But watching how this team evolved over the 5 in a row was incredible. We built a defensive structure, we became a much smarter and efficient team, while there quietly was a number of new faces brought in and old faces phased out.
There has been marked improvements in a number of players under Gavin, which again is a testament to the setup. The development of Paul Mannion from a raw talent in 2013 to a fully rounded footballer in 2019 is the perfect example. The development of Niall Scully from a player who at u21 I did not expect to play for senior at all, to being a certain starter for the past 2 or 3 years.
There really are not enough words to do justice for the Jim Gavin era. What he has given us over these past 7 years can not be underestimated. A legacy that’ll last forever.