GAA Football

Dublin are blameless for GAA feeding their massive appetite

Dublin won their 13th consecutive National League game last Sunday and are growing ever more dominant on the footballing landscape
Picture by Colm O'Reilly

IF YOU keep putting a child out food, the child will keep eating. You set a box of biscuits and a few platefuls of sweets in front of a four-year-old and they won’t last long.

A few years down the line, when the child reaches the point of no return, the gaze doesn’t fall on them for eating. It’s the fault of the guardians that fed them. Right now, Dublin are setting out their napkins for another feed. Last Sunday, they won their 13th consecutive National League game.

The reigning All-Ireland champions, the holders of Sam Maguire in 2013 and '11, are 70 minutes away from their fourth straight Division One title. That feat hasn’t been achieved since the great Mayo team of the 1930s won six on the bounce.

This Dublin crop has lost one Leinster Championship game in 11 years. The production line behind them has produced six Leinster U21-winning teams in the last eight years and won four of the last seven Leinster minor titles. That’s before you mention their progression in hurling.

The GAA’s landscape is dangerously blue. If there is any county in Ireland that doesn’t really need a leg-up at present, it’s Dublin. Now, there’s a consciousness of not becoming a Dublin-basher. This is certainly not a criticism of them. They have invested their funding very wisely.

Their county board deserves great credit for putting so much into the development of those teams and not squandering their cash reserves. But then you look at other counties and see that they simply don’t have the same options.

Clare have come in for all sorts of criticism in the last few weeks for the job they did of redeveloping Cusack Park. From the lack of legroom between seats and building a press box that only gives a view of half the pitch to dabbing the entrance with Tipperary’s blue and yellow rather than the reverse, their county board has come under fire.

In all, Clare spent €1.5m on the south stand at the ground as part of a €2.3m redevelopment of the ground as a whole. That sounds like a substantial sum of money but the ground was so dilapidated that they couldn’t afford to rebuild the south stand. Instead, they tore the roof off, took the seats out and then reconstructed it as best they could.

The money didn’t exist for anything grander: “If the budget allowed, you’d like to demolish the existing stand and rebuild the stand, but there are certain cost constraints,” said county chairman Joe Cooney.

“We were working with the upgrade of an existing facility and governed by the existing profile of the stand, therefore governed by the existing treads and risers of the stand.”

Clare’s problem now stretches beyond supporters needing to go on extreme diet plans to fit in their seats. Their problem is that the €600,000 capital grant they received from Croke Park in 2015 is the biggest chunk of money they are going to see for a long time, and it is all buried in the concrete at Cusack Park.

That will not help their improving football team push on following promotion to Division Two. It will not provide the next band of young players who dream of being the new Gary Brennan.

The figure they received from Croke Park for Games Development last year was €47,400. As with all these figures, the comparison always goes back to Dublin, who received just over €1.46m to help improve the standard of the games in the county.

Dublin’s capital grant of €7,483 for the year would almost look to have evened it out were it not for this new National Games Development Centre on the site of the National Sports Campus. The north-west corner of the Abbotstown site has recently been completed, handing over five playing pitches - four of them full size and all floodlit - a 3G pitch, gym, hurling wall, etc etc.

Even the covered stand that houses 400 people may not seem like much of an advantage, but the elevation it will allow Dublin’s coaches to watch in-house games from is something few counties have. A total of €12m has been invested in the 25-acre centre.

Paráic Duffy has insisted all along that the centre is not Dublin’s and that it belongs to everyone. Except, it’s in Dublin  and even their neighbouring counties appear none too set on using it.

It’s a 90km round-trip from Kildare town; the same from Navan. It’s 140km there and back from Wicklow. Good luck to the players trying to get away from work to make those trips three or four times a week.

“Have Dublin any special first say on it? The answer is no. Nor have they sought it to be fair to them. I’m sure they will use it,” said Duffy at the venue’s official opening last week.

“Our goal is to have teams of all shapes and sizes using it. I think clubs from all over the country will be thrilled with the opportunity of coming here for a weekend and maybe using the gym for a session, playing a match here. I think it will be used by all 32 counties, 2,000 clubs. That’s what we want and I believe that will happen.”

They would have been better if they’d just come out and said it was a new centre of excellence for Dublin. A few days after those statements were made, it emerged that Dublin had funded the on-site gym and that Bryan Cullen was overseeing the installation of equipment.

Abbotstown will become the base for Dublin GAA. It will be their centre of excellence. Dublin’s conveyor belt, adding to their already successful football and hurling teams, will be sculpted in its luxury.

It’s not Dublin’s fault the GAA are feeding them.  The guardians need to stop making excuses for it.

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