Jim Gavin's departure as Dublin manager certainly came as a surprise, a bolt from the blue (excuse the pun ) that has certainly set tongues wagging in the GAA world.
It came as a shock to most but there are many who are wise after the event, saying they could see it coming, that all the signs were there; from his lap of honour after completing the five in a row to the press conference he gave the media in the aftermath of that historic feat.
He apparently showed more emotion than he had done for any previous successes, wallowed in the occasion a lot more if you like. I was certainly shocked upon hearing the news and I still am.
Could you really vacate a post on more of a high? A simple no is the answer. Gavin has left a legacy, huge boots to fill and I don't envy the person who goes in after him. Everything they do will be compared to what Jim Gavin would do or has done. You really are on a hiding to nothing. Gavin has created a monster, an empire that he seamlessly controlled without flinching.
The man who made Dublin what they are
Dublin GAA is huge, as we know, and he is largely responsible for making it even bigger. In my opinion, his man-management was his best forte. No one was indispensable - from giving Paul Flynn no game time in the 2018 All-Ireland Final to dropping Bernard Brogan from the match day 26 for this year's drawn All-Ireland. Those two were his two main lieutenants when he first got the Dublin job. Gavin was ruthless and had the players eating from the palm of his hand. Sentiment did not come into it.
Eoin Murchan took a roasting off Ian Burke when Dublin played Galway in the 2018 All-Ireland semi final. I was on radio duty that day and flagged that Murchan's place for the final would be in jeopardy after what Burke had done to him. Any other manager in Ireland would have dropped Murchan for the final, I'd be sure of that, but not Jim Gavin. Gavin was thinking of the long haul, he knew Philly McMahon et al wouldn't be around forever and that he'd need Murchan for the future. Dropping him could have had devastating consequences for his confidence and development. Murchan ended up having a great final against Tyrone thereafter - and who'll forget the unbelievable goal he scored that broke Kerry's back in this year's replay? Murchan and Dublin can be thankful for Gavin's man-management skills.
He has certainly left a legacy, a dynasty. The new manager is to be announced next week, with Dessie Farrell the front runner. For those of you wondering whether or not Gavin's departure will derail the Dubs chances of accumulating more All-Irelands, the odds make for grim reading for the chasing pack. You can only get 11/2 in the Bookmakers for Dublin to win the next four All-Ireland titles in a row and a measly 9/1 to win the next five to do ten in a row by 2024. The odds-makers think the Dubs aren't leaving the party any time soon. Coincidentally, in case you're wondering, Mayo are 18/1 to win Sam in 2020, the biggest price the green and red have been in years before the season throws in. They think our chances have all but diminished.
Still in the headlines
Just when the biggest GAA story of the year emerged about the resignation of Jim Gavin, it was a relief that Mayo GAA was out of the headlines - but in typical fashion, we are back in the papers and on social media pages again for non-related football matters. Tim O'Leary and the International Mayo Supporters Foundation are now intimating they have secured €1 million in funds to give the County board over the next five years, as long as there is transparency over where the money is going to be spent and accountability as to where the €150k O'Leary previously gave them was spent and reports this week now say he wants the money back by later this month as he claims it wasn't spent on what it was supposed to be spent on.
There was a 5pm deadline on Monday, given by O'Leary to the county board to answer and be transparent with nine key issues they saw fit to get answers to - or else they were going to forfeit the opportunity to secure the funding. Obviously that deadline was not met so there seems to be no ending in sight to this saga. With the Connacht Council and Croke Park now involved, it looks like this situation is going to get a lot more messy before it gets resolved.
Back to work for Mayo
Last weekend saw James Horan assemble his entire panel for pre-season assessment to have them fit and ready for the start of the league. It's the part of the season that even the most dedicated player dreads with no games in sight, just a hard slog. They will put in some amount of work between now and the end of January to have themselves fighting fit for their opening national league game against Donegal.
With rigorous testing and all results measured and recorded to show improvements, there is no hiding places for any of the players. James Horan has demanded immediate commitment from his entire extended panel. It's the un-glamorous part of a footballers year, but it has to be done. I often wonder do most folk realise the effort and work they put in to don the green and red jersey.
Westport claim u21 crown
Congrats to Westport who put in a stellar performance to win the county u21 A football title against Claremorris on a scoreline of 1-18 to 1-11. It's their second title at this grade in three years, which is fair going. We will have to wait and see if the huge potential they possess at under-age level can now be transferred on to their senior team, to see if they are capable of challenging Ballintubber for senior honours. When potential of this magnitude arrives you have to take advantage of it.