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exclusive I played for 14 seasons for Dublin and we wanted for nothing, but it didn't help us reach the Holy Grail


Dublin players John Small, Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup

Dublin players John Small, Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup

Dublin players John Small, Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup

This nation is famed for its faction fighting and with several centuries of practice we’ve become well versed in it!

As the temperatures dropped last Saturday night in Croke Park, a cold and ill wind was picking up and blowing in the direction of Dublin’s senior football team.

The debate over Dublin GAA’s development funding rages on and on and on, with little clarity and much confusion abounding - it was this week’s faction fighting.

There are those who want to draw a short, straight line from this funding to Dublin’s decade of dominance and say there’s a direct correlation. For me that’s as farcical as saying the reason Mayo have not won an All-Ireland SFC since 1951 is because of ‘The Curse’.

Dublin senior teams have always been looked after in terms of the basic requirements of an inter-county set-up. I played for 14 seasons for the Dubs and we wanted for nothing, we could not point to shortcomings in that department for not reaching the Holy Grail.

Sure we even got a pre-season warm-weather training camp one year - a luxury not afforded to the Dublin senior footballers of the past few years. Though I’m told Jim Gavin brought the lads to Lambay Island off Howth Head last summer to camp out for the weekend!

Sports Science is another reason held up a strong reason for Dublin’s success but yet I see GPS packs on the back of the jersey of nearly all senior football and hurling teams. If you have GPS systems, you obviously have analysts to make the data relevant.

Therefore I argue that the issue, to my mind, is far more nuanced and complex. To the best of my knowledge, the funding is utilised for the development of the game in the primary school age category.

The work done at this level in giving young boys and girls their first experience and an introduction to Gaelic games is very valuable, especially to clubs but the road from there to Croke Park and All-Ireland final day is light years away, or further.

Games Promotion Officers (GPOs)/ Games Development Officers (GDOs) work with kids through the primary schools system and encourage them to join their local GAA club. It is not some sort of elite coaching system to develop the next generation of inter-county players.

What I think certainly has had an impact is the pioneering of the ‘Go Games’ many years ago at juvenile level in the capital and the implementation of a much-improved club games schedule and of game rules and regulations that strongly encouraged, in fact forced, coaches to adopt a coaching strategy of developing balanced footballers, ie use of left and right foot, left and right hand.

Take a look back at last Saturday’s victory over Cavan in Croke Park. By my notes Dublin scored six points when players used their less favoured side in the act of scoring (Con O’Callaghan on three occasions, Dean Rock (below) twice and Cormac Costello).

It is not just in games where Dublin are comfortable when this statistic is prevalent. In their biggest games over the past few summers it is that ability that has been crucial in their greatest battles.

Then we have what I’ll call ‘The Matrix of the Metric’, where graphics of figures are listed and then conclusions extrapolated.

One side of the debate will produce a figure for investment ‘per registered adult player’ in accordance with their metric, then some others will argue that the picture would look entirely different if you viewed it ‘per capita’ and then an entirely different figure if you utilised the growing numbers attending club nurseries and participating in our national games, both boys and girls, at juvenile level.


Dublin's Ciaran Whelan in action against Ger Cafferky of Mayo in 2009

Dublin's Ciaran Whelan in action against Ger Cafferky of Mayo in 2009

Dublin's Ciaran Whelan in action against Ger Cafferky of Mayo in 2009

Never mind the numbers not involved in clubs but who benefit from the work of GPOs through school visitations.

There is no getting away from the fact that the population and numbers participating is an advantage for Dublin. While that was always the case, the increased participation at grassroots level, combined with the games structures will continue to produce a quality players.

So the ‘Dublin Question’ or ‘Dublin Problem’, as some frame it, does need examination by Croke Park’s powerbrokers.

I’d neither argue for dividing Dublin or amalgamating other counties - I think both ideas are nonsense. Gaelic games have a tribal sense of identity which underpins their nature. To mess with this as part of some experiment would be fundamentally flawed.

But there are several areas which must be addressed in the short-term.

Wexford GAA have shown the value and merit of employing a commercial manager, when they announced in their yearly accounts this week that they have a tidy €1.2 cash reserves in the bank.

The GAA should have more commerical managers, not in every county initially if that was not possible, but pooled for the smaller counties with the job for the commerical manager to work on behalf of the counties under his/her remit.

In a partnership funded between clubs/county boards/provinces and the GAA centrally, there should be a greater roll-out of GPOs/GDOs across the nation.

I have heard representatives of some smaller clubs saying they could not muster the necessary finances to partly fund the employment of a GPO/GDO.

In such instances a Games Promotion Officer could work across two/three clubs, with all the clubs who benefit contributing for the club fraction of his/her salary.

Travel expenses for players should be met by the GAA centrally to alleviate the extra costs for counties who have players travelling longer distances to meet their intercounty commitments.

There is no silver bullet to the situation but what is needed is greater clarity, greater vision and a little less faction fighting!

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Online Editors