Make no mistake about it, the five-in-a-row is some achievement and Dublin are by any standards a very good team. No doubt the diligence and dedication of both players and management has been key... along, of course, with the €18m in GAA coaching and development grants over the period from 2007 to 2018.
This was the precise span when a lot of the current players were developing into the quality footballers they are today.
The next highest grant allocation over that period was for Cork — a paltry €1.4m.
Thus, a factor of 10-plus in favour of the Dubs, even though only a population differential factor of three -times and all other counties languishing well below that again.
Fair play? Absolutely not.
Some 15 years ago, the GAA ‘corporate core’, came to to the promotional/financial decision that Dublin GAA needed to be galvanised and ‘rebooted’, so they somehow were able to grotesquely skew the funding allocations out of all decent proportion. Thus, the ‘five-in-a-row’ was hatched and now is dispatched. QED.
Not that the players, coaches managers, nutritionists, physios, etc, didn’t put in hard yards, just like every other county team (who struggle to make ends meet).
Of course they did, but the county’s clubs benefited exponentially from the coaching luxury afforded by the awards, and of course the county team derived so much additional financial fuel to rise to the top.
It’s a simple equation, really. You pour most of your money into one county, and await the eventual bonanza return vis-à-vis their string of trophies.
The elusive (nay, bizarre) question is why all other counties weren’t incessantly up in arms at such disparity being played out: The coffers of a county with one third of the nation’s population gets at least 10 times the funding of any other county, are bumped up and then you wait for the inevitable to materialise.
Amazing tolerance, I would have thought all round.
Rural clubs are suffering badly it seems, while the metropolitan clubs are booming, not least because of the distorted allocation of funding support.
It’s now really all about the corporate value attached to GAA decisions, not so much about equitability or honourable transparent fairness in the round.
In county-team terms, the most populous, the most funded (by far and further), the team that plays all its big matches in its home patch, the one that can gather easily for training without massive travel burdens, etc, etc, this is the team that garners all the contorted advantages.
What hope the rest?
Of course, saying all this, leaves one open to the customary jibe of “sour grapes” and jealousy of others’ success. It’s not that, but it is for sure a deep frustration at the travesty of it all. Nothing to do with the players or the management of the Dublin team, but all to do with the GAA handlers in headquarters.
Sportsmanship, fair play and even-handedness should always trump gamesmanship at every level of any self-respecting sports organisation.
However, no doubt the current leadership isn’t too bothered about such considerations, just sit-back enjoy the celebrations, wallow in the glow and keep the GAA corporate flag flying high.
Leitrim, Louth and Longford, et al, can all take a hike.
- Jim Cosgrove