The Minister of State for Tourism and Sport confirmed €2 million of the monies cut from the sports budget earlier this year has been returned to the sector for use at grass roots and elite levels.
The decision to shave 8% off the current spend on sport for 2014 caused shock waves throughout the community in October, but it was subsequently suggested some funds would be found elsewhere to offset such a loss.
So it has proved, with the difference between next year’s sports budget and this now standing at just 3%. Welcome though this is, it still represents a significant blow to a sector that had lobbied for an increase to be used for job creation.
Minister Ring, speaking at the Philips Sports Manager of the Year Awards in Dublin, accepted no cut would be better than one of 3%, but the belated funding will at least bring to €42m the money available for distribution to the Irish Sports Council.
The Minister also confirmed the latest raft of Sports Capital grants will be unveiled in the coming weeks and this at an event where one of the illustrious nominees reminded him of the prestige which Irish sport can bring to the country.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins, winner of the monthly award in March for his five winners at the Cheltenham Festival, took to the stage to collect his award on his return from Asia, where Simenon placed fifth in the Longines Hong Kong Vase.
“We finished fifth which was as good as we could get,” said Mullins of the Far East trip. “The people there really wanted us there. Every time we go to Hong Kong, Japan or Melbourne they go through everything we do.
“They want to learn what Irish racing people do. They keep us in quarantine and if we want more they want to know why. They want to know what we do, why we do it. They film what we do when we prepare.”
Mullins trained a record number of jump winners this year but was among a plethora of names, including Clare’s Davy Fitzgerald and Ireland women’s rugby coach Philip Doyle, whom Jim Gavin edged out for the award of Manager of the Year.
The Dublin football manager took over from Pat Gilroy just over a year ago and delivered National League, Leinster and All-Ireland titles to the capital but warned yesterday that “there is a lot more to be done with this team”.
Interestingly, he is the first Dublin manager to be honoured with the Philips award, which has been a feature of the sports calendar for 32 years and has been won by Jack Charlton and Declan Kidney among others.
Brendan Edwards, manager of the Irish men’s amateur golf team, Ger Loughnane and Giovanni Trapattoni all edged out his Sam Maguire-winning predecessors in 1983, 1995 and 2011.
“Yeah, I wasn’t aware of that,” said Gavin. “That kind of caught me a bit off-guard this afternoon with so many other fantastic managers there. I’m very humbled to get it. I didn’t expect it but now that we have it, it’s testament to the management team.”
Gavin must now set out to do what Pat Gilroy, Pat O’Neill and even Kevin Heffernan could not the last three times Dublin won an All-Ireland title and that is to retain their crown — as a Tony Hanahoe-led side managed in 1977.
“At elite level in Gaelic football there are a host of teams that can challenge for the Sam Maguire and 2014 will be no different. There’s no guarantees in sport and there will be no guarantees in 2014,” he said.
Philips Sports Manager Awards: Monthly Winners
DECEMBER 2012: Teresa McDaid, manager of Irish cross-country team.
JANUARY 2013: Mark Scannell, head coach Bord Gais Neptune Basketball.
FEBRUARY: Philip Doyle, head coach women’s IRFU; Brian Nugent, high performance coach Cycling Ireland.
MARCH: Willie Mullins, champion NH trainer.
APRIL: Jim Gavin, manager Dublin footballers.
MAY: Joe Schmidt, head coach Leinster Rugby.
JUNE Paul Coggins, manager London footballers.
JULY: Malachy O’Rourke, manager Monaghan footballers.
AUGUST: Marian Heffernan, coach of Rob Heffernan, Winner World 50km.
SEPTEMBER: Davy Fitzgerald, manager Clare hurlers; Jim Gavin manager Dublin footballers.
OCTOBER: Liam Buckley, manager St. Patrick’s Athletic.
NOVEMBER: Ian Baraclough, manager Sligo Rovers.
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