Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s honest review of Kerry’s loss to Dublin last September was keenly read in Dublin football circles this week.
As respectful as he was to the All-Ireland champions and the intellect he showed in analysing what went wrong for his team, what struck them was how deep the defeat cut him. They wondered how many times he went back over the DVD. With hurt and a focus as intense as his, Dublin won’t be resting on their laurels.
Three days on from that interview envy of another kind reared its head on social media platforms in reaction to the appointments of Mike Farnan and Tomás Quinn as Dublin GAA’s newly-formed commercial department.
Dublin supporters of a certain vintage can remember in the mid-1990s Barry Gavin, brother of Jim, appointed by the county board to look after their commercial affairs.
These days there’s more of a sophistication required to maximise Dublin’s obvious money-generating capabilities. Nonetheless, Dublin have been here before. It’s like AIG taking over from Vodafone for more or less a similar amount of money.
Yet Farnan and Quinn’s appointments would have been viewed in other counties as a further example of Dublin’s might. GAA presidential candidates report the financial disparity between the haves and the have nots is the hottest issue on their campaigns across the country.
But what has changed, asks former manager Paul Caffrey, only that Dublin have begun to win All-Irelands. Success on and off the field creates a potent cocktail of resentment.
“Begrudgery is a word I think you might use in describing how some people are looking at Dublin’s resources. What it comes down to is the talent that Dublin can put out on any given Sunday.
“Dublin doing a big sponsorship deal won’t hinder them but it won’t give them an advantage either, any more than when they were sponsored by Arnotts. People say ‘aw, this makes a huge difference to the Dublin player’ — it doesn’t. Dublin never won or lost All-Irelands because of sponsors. The things we couldn’t do wasn’t because of a big sponsorship deal. Whether it was Arnotts, Vodafone or AIG, it means zilch to the players wearing the jersey or those trying to get into the panel.”
This time last year, the Dublin senior teams but especially the footballers were signing up associate sponsors. As former player and Pembroke Communications director Mick O’Keeffe explained at the time, benefit-in-kind agreements were only too welcome in a county where up to 50 development officers have to be paid (such deals have been muted this year perhaps with a new mainline sponsor on board). The challenges in managing a county the size of Dublin are precisely what is forgotten.
Worked out, Dublin’s sponsorship per capita falls behind a number of counties. The €750,000 per annum deal with AIG works out at less than 60 cent per person living in the county compared to the likes of Tipperary’s deal with Skoda (€1.26) and Cork’s with Chill Insurance (67c).
Dublin make more money because they have to. It mightn’t excuse arguments about their over-familiarity with Croke Park, but the difference is they’re winning.
“When Dublin weren’t picking up All-Irelands there was very much a feelgood factor in other counties about them,” recalls Caffrey. “You’d have players quoted saying Dublin were their second favourite team and there was a huge sympathy out there.
“Once 2011 happened and the hoodoo was broken and then last year when it was followed up, Dublin became the No. 1 enemy.
“I would have felt there was a circling of the wagons in the camp about how they were perceived. Winning changes the whole arrangement.
“Everyone was always out to beat Dublin but that has intensified now and all of a sudden people think they’re going to become a superpower, which can’t be backed up.
“Tyrone won three All-Irelands in six years and nobody was talking about Tyrone going to dominate for the next 20 years. But a big sponsorship gig and people start believing Dublin will.”
On paper, there might be plenty about Dublin players to be jealous of. As Caffrey states, it’s not all glamorous.
“In my seven years with Dublin we played league games in Parnell Park where there were only 4,000 to 5,000. The diehard Dublin fans are a small bunch. You’d have a lot of Dublin people in Croke Park in the summer who aren’t attached to any clubs. We (Na Fianna) play Kilmacud Crokes in senior league in three weeks’ time and there won’t be a hundred people there.”
Dublin may occupy the throne but it’s on the edge of it that they sit.
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