GAA Football

GAA President John Horan praises Dublin clubs' 'buy-in' to raising standards in the capital

GAA President John Horan and Antrim chairman Collie Donnelly at the launch of Gaelfast last Friday. Horan discusses the burning issues of the day

New GAA President John Horan outlines to Brendan Crossan some of his ideas as he embarks on his three-year term in office, including creating tiers and tackling elitism with county development squads...


Brendan Crossan: Many people in Antrim insist they should get somewhere near the same amount of funding that Dublin has got in recent years. What would you say to them?

John Horan: The GAA is 32 small businesses around the country and you have to look at them in a different context. I’m not defending the Dublin situation because I don’t feel I have to.

Obviously the investment in Dublin has been dealt with prudently and the clubs in Dublin contribute 50 per cent as well so there is a huge buy in from the Dublin clubs.

If you get a coach in Dublin the club pays 50 per cent of the actual cost. If we got that reciprocated around the country – if funding centrally was matched 50 per cent by the clubs - I’m sure the outcomes would be great.

I often have this phrase: You have to have some skin in the game to get the outcomes from it.

I know people mention Dublin but while the Dublin project gives a great return, one has to accept that it’s not all GAA central money that is driving that on. That money is matched by the clubs.


BC: Where do you see the Casement Park project by the end of your three-year presidency?

JH: By the end of my tenure I’ll probably not be opening Casement Park but most definitely, in the near future, I hope we would actually see the physical development of it.


BC: Much has been made of rebuilding Casement Park and what that will offer Antrim in particular. But, currently, Antrim do not have a ground with a covered stand to stage games. What are the prospects of giving Corrigan Park in west Belfast a face-lift?

JH: Yes, that’s an issue that needs addressed. If you were to look at some of the priorities in terms of the infrastructure and development within the organisation the opening of Casement Park for National League games for, say, Antrim wouldn’t be financially sensible to do.

And I also think grassy banks [Corrigan Park’s current status] as the main country ground wouldn’t be sufficient either in the modern day. I think our supporters and patrons expect comfort, and a basic comfort would be a covered stand.

It makes a lot of common sense that some development has to happen in Corrigan Park. Croke Park would certainly contribute but I don’t think Croke Park would take it all on its own. We’d need other partners coming on board.


BC: One of your objectives during your presidency is to create a tiered Championship…

JH: I think it’s certainly something we’ll have to look at when we’re actually doing the review in three years’ time. We have to look at how we present the option of going for a Tier Two Championship. And when we’re doing that review in 2020 I think that is something that we would have to clearly put on the table.

How we put it together, I don’t really want to get into details at the moment; I have some ideas. But certainly in that year we’ll be looking and encouraging that we look at how we go about creating a Tier Two competition.


BC: There is a significant number of people who think the lower tiered counties would be cut adrift, even in terms of TV exposure and being afforded a national profile if a ‘B’ Championship was introduced.

JH: Well, they will have their day because no matter what way we create a Tier Two competition – I think the provincial competitions will continue – so it’s the timing of when you’d enter Tier Two which is key.

I don’t think, as an organisation or in the short-term, we are going to dismantle our provincial structures. So, within those provincial Championships all those counties will [have their big day]. And I’m quite sure the people negotiating our TV deals would have enough vision to see that a certain number of Tier Two matches be covered on television.


BC: The former Director of Finance Tom Ryan replaces Paraic Duffy as the GAA’s Director General. What will Tom bring to the table?

JH: I was obviously involved in his appointment and I’m very happy and positive about it. Tom has long experience of working within the GAA but he has a long family tradition of being involved in the association. He’s treasurer in his own club [Faughs in Templeogue, Dublin].

So he’s not the kind of guy that goes in and works nine to five and switches off from the GAA. We had a meeting last Thursday and Tom had to be in his club for seven o’clock to deal with club matters. That’s the kind of guy he is and I think he’ll do a great job for us.


BC: There was a leaked report entitled: ‘Towards 2034 – the 150th anniversary of the GAA’ where various ideas were floated. It talks about financial allowances for players by that stage and discusses the possible abolition of provincial councils…

JH: We’re putting a strategic plan together and we hope to launch it in the next few weeks. If you look at some of the ideas in it some of them are down the road a bit. To be honest with you, the GPA and the GAA has an understanding that pay-for-play is not something we’re going to embrace. That seems to be one issue that has been highlighted out of it. I don’t see that arising on the agenda.

As an organisation, we wouldn’t have the funding to sustain pay-for-play, so I think that’s a ‘no’ – and for me personally, on a long-term basis.


BC: Can the GAA sustain its financial commitments to the GPA?

JH: The GPA do good work on player welfare and I know people have issues of the size of the funding (€6.2m per year up until 2019). We’re working closer and closer with the GPA and we’re improving the governance and the relationship with us.


BC: There has been some latent opposition to the deal that the GAA struck with Sky. Where do you stand on that?

JH: There seems to be dissent but ultimately Congress has spoken – which is representative of all the counties – and people can criticise it if they want but it is the democratic way of running the organisation. In terms of the Sky deal the Association is happy with where it is at the moment, so that pathway is laid it for me.


BC: What would you like to achieve in your three years as GAA President?

JH: The GAA is a complex organisation and there are a lot of things happening on a lot of fronts. The first task I had was appointing committees to deal with the different areas within the organisation.

I’d have a fair bit on my plate. I have a committee put together and I hope to announce it in the next week or so to look at the whole area of academies and elite squads and the funding that goes into them. The development of the idea of elitism within young players, I’m personally not in favour of.

You have lads getting to wear county gear at 14 or 15 years-of-age and getting a swagger about them. I don’t think that’s ever what the GAA should be.

I’m looking forward to the results of that committee. I’ve got a good group of people across the full range – hurling and football and across the four provinces. Hopefully they will come back with guidelines that we will be able to implement and deliver on.

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