Cork football great Niall Cahalane believes that sponsorship money coming into the GAA’s top counties should be ‘ring fenced’ and carefully redistributed in order to create a fairer Championship.
The two-time All-Ireland winner noted that five-in-a-row football champions Dublin have ‘huge sponsors’ and also pointed to the financial support enjoyed by Tipperary and Limerick, winners of the last two All-Ireland hurling titles.
Cahalane, father of current Cork hurler Damien, said in an interview for Cork’s 96fm The Score programme that while money can’t buy provincial and All-Ireland titles it gives you a ‘fair chance’ of being successful.
“It’s difficult, when I look at the whole GAA thing now and I look at sponsorship and I look at money in the game and everything else, Dublin would have huge sponsors, you look at the Limerick hurlers have a huge sponsor, you look at Tipperary last year and they pulled a very good sponsor on board,” said Cahalane.
“I’m sure money doesn’t give you success but money in the right hands and with the right approach gives you a fair chance. That’s what I worry about the whole thing. It should be a level playing field for everyone. Sponsorship should be ring fenced, things like that to give counties a chance. When you look at some of the what we’d call, and I don’t want to call them weaker counties, but our less prominent counties, in both hurling and football, and you’d see some of their better players don’t play in the Championship, they want to go to the States or they want to go somewhere else because they don’t see light at the end of the tunnel.
We just have to make it attractive some way for those guys to ... I’m not saying we’re going to build them up to be All-Ireland champions but you need a level playing field some way.
Cahalane said that if a Championship does go ahead in 2020, it’s hard to look past Dublin as likely winners though he acknowledged ‘huge improvement’ in Cork who reached last year’s Super 8s and were on the brink of promotion to Division 2 when the COVID-19 lockdown kicked in.
It’s 30 years since Cork’s remarkable double success of 1990 when they won both All-Irelands, a feat Cahalane was part of and something he predicted won’t be repeated.
“The hurlers came out of nowhere and won an All-Ireland hurling (title), all of a sudden then it was two weeks of hell kind of,” he said. “All we wanted to do was turn over Meath and next thing it was talk about a double.
“If I go back to that, that was definitely (difficult), as I say all we wanted to do was turn Meath over. The added pressure then was the fact that there was a double on that hadn’t been done for 100 years. I think it took a number of years for that to sink in, that Cork had achieved it and achieved it in my time there. Teddy McCarthy will go down in history as probably the only man to win two All-Irelands in the one year in both hurling and football and I don’t think it will ever again be repeated.”
Asked about his greatest regret, the 1987 and 1988 All-Star defender said it was missing Castlehaven’s All-Ireland club semi-final against Erin’s Isle in early 1998 through suspension, a game they famously lost despite leading by five points with two minutes of normal time remaining.
“I suppose the down side for me was getting suspended in ‘97 after the county final and missing out on an All-Ireland series that probably genuinely cost us as a club winning an All-Ireland that year,” he said. “That would have to have been one of the biggest downsides of things, there’s no doubt about it.”
Cahalane also recalled playing in club games that ‘virtually filled’ Pairc Ui Chaoimh and argued that ‘crowds are down’ now because of a move away from straight knock-out formats.
“I think there’s too many games,” he said. “I think people have too much choice. And if you’re a family, you’ve got teenage kids and what have you, it’s not cheap going to these things and I just think there’s too much exposure. If went back to knock-out Championship, that’s what created crowds at the time. That’s where the interest was.”