GAA Football

Derry captain Christopher McKaigue fears for the future of football

Glen Cathal Mulholland and Jack Doherty with Chrissy McKaigue of Slaughtneil during the 2019 Derry Senior Football Championship semi-final at Owenbeg. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

Derry captain Christopher McKaigue has admitted he fears for the future of football and worries that the gap between the elite few and the majority may already be 'insurmountable'.

Experienced dual star McKaigue said the GAA needs to introduce as a matter of urgency some form of equalisation programme to distribute funds and resources in a fairer manner and give all counties a fighting chance of being competitive.

The former Aussie Rules player pointed to the oval ball game which has several measures in place, including a salary cap and player draft system, to help all teams reach a similar standard.

The GAA recently introduced a Tier 2 structure for the football Championship though McKaigue claimed this is badly missing the point and will only isolate the weaker teams.

"If the current system stays as it is then you could probably pick on one hand for the next 10 or 15 years who the Sam Maguire winners are going to be," said McKaigue. "And it wouldn't be too hard, you'd probably go by population size.

"To me, it's very obvious, maybe I'm missing something but you're not going to compete at the top level of sport if you don't have a level of resources that allows you to compete, sports science, coaching, nutrition, player welfare and all of those things.

"There's such a divide being created, and that has been created, that maybe the gap now is insurmountable."

Yet the Slaughtneil man said he remains an 'optimist' and is keeping his fingers crossed that the GAA will eventually grasp the nettle and share out its resources on a fairer basis.

"I don't think there is ever a solution where you can get the likes of Leitrim creating the same type of revenue as Dublin," he said.

"But surely there has to be somewhere in between that allows the lesser well known counties or even the traditional strongholds to gain some kind of footing that they can set up a structure that allows their teams to have a level of resources that will let them, in time, set up structures to be competitive.

"I don't think that's unrealistic to expect or want that. Surely we don't want our association to go down the road where our best teams, our county teams, are pigeon-holed to a certain grade. For me, that only spirals one way, and it's not upwards. So I think we've got to be very, very careful with that type of mentality.

"For me, the GAA should be about promoting every county to be the best they can, it's their premier team, is it too much to ask that they can get to a level where they are at least competitive at the top table?

"Maybe I'm too much of an optimist but that would be my long-term aim of the GAA, that we could see a day where every county team could get their fair share of resources that allows them to do that."

McKaigue, who will play for Slaughtneil in the AIB All-Ireland club semi-finals on January 5 against Ballyhale Shamrocks, said he feels that a clear divide has opened up between Croke Park authorities and the rest of the GAA.

"Certainly that's a concern for me," he said. "I'm not sure we can claim to be as democratic as we might think.

"I think certainly the ethos of the GAA has shifted considerably.

"For me, and maybe I'm slightly biased because of the success I've been allowed to have with my club, but the club is still very much the lifeblood of our association and those that forget that, or are forgetting that, it would be wise of them not to because they could be very quickly reminded that the GAA is built on the club volunteers and the club spirit.

"I don't think it takes anybody too wise to see that, and as I said before, God forbid the way we ever forget that one."

** AIB is in its 29th year sponsoring the GAA Club Championship and supports the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Championships across football, hurling and camogie.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football