Paying the price of success

Seamus Aldridge and Tadhg Fennin can agree on one thing — Kildare have been getting too hard a time of it of late.

Both admit news of Croke Park’s €300,000 advance at the same time the senior footballers were on a training camp in Portugal was bad PR, but not to the extent that the county deserved to be lambasted in the media.

The pair differ on the self-financing done by the footballers, although they both feel Kildare’s woes pale in significance to those of other counties.

Former forward Fennin, now a GAA development officer in the county, believes they’ve been made scapegoats.

For years, Kildare president Aldridge called for an audit of the board’s accounts to no avail but believes the new executive members are cleaning up problem areas.

He said: “Kildare have been getting recent bad press for lesser amounts than other counties in worse situations.

“It’s a new county board and a new chairman. The previous chairman resigned unexpectedly and John (McMahon) came in.

“There are indications they are making good progress with things like the shop and the thousandaire contribution.

“They’ve tidying up to do but it’s got to be done. County teams demand all sorts of things and if county boards don’t do it the press are after them and the GPA are complaining.

“But when they do it and they run into problems the same press are after them. It’s a question of finding a balance.”

Fennin comes from a similar position. “The main feeling would be that we’re a bit like scapegoats with some of the stuff in the newspapers.

“Most people in Kildare would be aware that the finances weren’t looked after particularly well over a certain period of time. But I think people are happy enough that those in the county board at the moment are putting in a big effort into rectifying that.”

Earlier this week, Kieran McGeeney dismissed the suggestion that the footballers were asking people to dig into the same pockets that contributed to the county board, insisting it wasn’t as simple as that. In Aldridge’s eyes, it is.

“The trip last week was justified because the players got the money in themselves but the timing was inappropriate. They’d also been on a trip (to Newcastle) while county convention was going on last December, again paid for out of their own funds.

“I know one club who have five players and each of them had to come up with two or three thousand a player. They’re getting it off people who would give money to their club. They hardly see any of their inter-county players compared to years gone by. But they have to support their players. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

Links have been made between the professional nature of the Kildare set-up, which saw them put in an impressive gym at The K Club, and the board’s financial difficulties.

GAA director general Páraic Duffy believes inter-county team preparation is the most obvious area where savings can be made and Kildare this year have cut those funds by 20% (€750,000 to €600,000).

But in such a well-supported county, there is optimism the footballers can rise all boats.

“People have been asking who’s being paid what and where’s the money going but I still think Kildare are in a strong enough position,” says Fennin.

“If you look at the Croke Park attendances over the next championship year Kildare will be among the top three or four counties. There’s a huge support when Kildare are going well.

“If you look what it took for Dublin to win an All-Ireland they would say the money spent was justified. To get into the top four or top five, you have to speculate to accumulate and I think that’s very important.”

Aldridge just wants to see everything done above board. “There has to be transparency,” says Aldridge, “but if Kildare go on and win something it’ll go into the background.”

TYRONE (v Kildare): J Curran; A McCrory, C Gormley, PJ Quinn; C McCarron, P Harte, D McCaul; A Cassidy, C Cavanagh; R McNabb, M Donnelly, S Cavanagh; O Mulliganm N McKenna, S O’Neill.

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