Dublin GAA chief John Costello claims his county has it hardest
WHICH county in Ireland has the hardest task in attracting young players? Dublin – according to Dublin GAA CEO John Costello, that is.
Costello also argues that even if Dublin had received the full '56 million allocation of Sports Capital Grants from the Irish government "it would still not be enough for the sporting needs of juveniles alone in this city."
In his annual report, the Dublin secretary/ CEO writes: "I have often said the battle for young hearts and minds is ongoing - and tougher than ever.
"My belief is that it is tougher in Dublin than in any other county in Ireland. In rural areas, the local GAA club is often the very heartbeat of the parish. Playing under-age for the local club is often a rite of passage for young people. This is less so in the larger suburban areas of Dublin.
"But through the wonderful work of our clubs and schools, we can reach as many young Dublin children as possible and introduce them to what will hopefully be a lifelong love of our national games. But we are not in a situation where we are turning thousands of children away from the gates of our clubs every day.
"Other sports in the capital are well-established, well-organised and often directly in competition with our games. Add in the many other non-sporting distractions of a large city and you have a real challenge to attract young players.
"It may surprise some but the penetration of the GAA in certain areas of Dublin remains relatively low. This too remains an ever-present challenge."
Costello points out that Dublin clubs often have to pay high prices or rents relating to training pitches, with land increasingly scarce in the city:
"[C]osts are higher than other areas and..land and development capacity is hugely restricted both in terms of availability and price. The fact of the matter is that resources in the capital are finite.
"Many clubs in established areas in our suburbs are flourishing but the increased numbers bring problems – albeit welcome ones – in terms of playing space, facilities, etc. It is rare for any land or space to become available at all and, when it does, it is often at a hugely prohibitive cost."
Costello continued to outline the difficulties in Dublin: "[T]here is only enough suitable land left in the Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown area for eight more pitches in the next 100 years.
"Those eight pitches are to cover all local sports' needs. Currently, there are 50 clubs in the area between Gaelic games, rugby and soccer. No other county faces this kind of vista.
"Cuala's own training bill runs to tens of thousands on rent because of the acute shortage of space – and this is just to train.
"Most rural clubs are well-established over decades and have pitches and facilities long since in place in their parishes. There is nothing like the pressure of lack of land which is prevalent in Dublin.
"The bigger Dublin projects are mostly for all-weather surfaces. This is not a luxury but a necessity. The pressure on the existing pitches is so great that the only solution is all-weather surfaces that can be in constant use for both training and playing.
"I also note that much of the grant-aid outside of Dublin is for upgrading of pitches and improvements to existing facilities, lights, fences, etc. There are also larger capital projects such as building dressing rooms or extending clubhouses.
"Again, it has to be noted that the cost of similar capital projects in Dublin would be much greater than elsewhere. What would cost '100,000 in Dublin might be realised for a little more than half of that in rural Ireland.
"A euro invested by the Government in Dublin is better value due to the large population and the realistic opportunity to increase participation."
Costello proposes one potential solution: "As NAMA continues to wind down, perhaps it would be an idea to sit down and review what remains in their portfolio.
"There could be huge benefit in the Government liaising with the GAA and other sporting organisations in drawing up an inventory of potentially available assets and then identifying where the critical shortfall of facilities are in the country".