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six timer Revealed: The big cash advantage Dublin have been handed in coaching grants

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Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton.

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton.

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton.

In the decade which they have won a record eight All-Ireland senior titles, Dublin have received nearly €2m more in coaching grants from Croke Park than the other 11 Leinster counties combined.

The precise figures are €13,538,750 compared to a total of €11,699,872 for Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford, and Kilkenny.

Regardless of the differences in population it is still an alarming disparity.

At this stage it is purely an academic exercise to speculate on what impact this has had on the growing gulf in class between Dublin and the rest of Leinster.

The Leinster senior football championship is a basket case in terms of its competitiveness, with Dublin winning every title bar one since 2005.

The picture is slightly better at underage level. Kildare have won five provincial minor titles compared to four for Dublin, with Meath the only other county to feature in the winners’ enclosure since 2011.

But what happens at U-20/21 level is a better indicator of future fortunes in the senior grade. Here Dublin have been the dominant side, winning seven Leinster and three All-Ireland crowns (2012, 2014, 2017) with Kildare, two provincial and one All-Ireland (2018) and Wexford (2011) the only other sides to feature in the provincial honours’ list.

The funding debate is a vexed one. So, maybe it is time everybody involved reflected on St Francis’ famous prayer of serenity. ‘To accept the things, I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.'

It is only fair to acknowledge the GAA has been attempting to address the financial imbalance in recent years, though the pace has been glacial.

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Seán Bugler, left, and Brian Howard of Dublin celebrate. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Seán Bugler, left, and Brian Howard of Dublin celebrate. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Seán Bugler, left, and Brian Howard of Dublin celebrate. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Initially the Leinster Council launched the ‘East Leinster’ project, which involved the recruitment and funding of Games Promotions Officers to work with underage players in schools and clubs in Meath, Wicklow, Kildare, and Louth.

In 2017 Wexford were added to the East Leinster initiative and the results have been remarkable. In just three years the Model county has experienced an almost 200 per cent increase in GAA participation among children aged five to nine.

Granted it will be a long time before any of these kids make a different at senior level, but this is a generational term project.

Due to the funding Wexford were able to employ ten full time GPOs – previously they had none.

Under a five year-strategic plan recently launched, Wexford hope to have 15 GPOs serving the county’s 40 clubs by 2025.

Wexford GAA chairman Michael Martin explained how the initiative had benefited his own club, the Wexford town-based St John’s Volunteers. They experienced a near 300 per cent rise in the number of five to nine-year-olds getting involved.

“There’s no young people living there anymore but there would be a lot of young non-Irish nationals, and they’ve spoken to the parents of those children, who encouraged their children to take part, so we’ve had massive success in this area and Wexford County Council has helped,” he explained.

Even though the GAA’s finances will take time to recover from the shock of Covid-19 the positive news is that the Leinster Council has decided to roll out the same coaching and development model to the remaining six counties in the province (Westmeath, Longford, Offaly, Laois, Carlow and Kilkenny).

By the end of 2021, the provincial body hopes that a significant number of clubs will have taken up the opportunity to part-fund the employment of a games promotion officer who will work within their club and schools in their catchment area. The rest of a GPO’s wages will be paid by their county and Leinster.

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Dublin celebrate six-in-a-row

Dublin celebrate six-in-a-row

Dublin celebrate six-in-a-row

So far, the GAA has resisted calls to curtail their spending on Dublin. Instead, the policy has been to increase funding in other counties.

Leinster Council chairman Pat Teehan acknowledged that small rural clubs would not be able to fund a GPO.

“There will be a Games Development Administrator in every county to cover the clubs that don’t have the resources – say a small club with just one school in the catchment area.”

Nobody, least of all the GAA, expects that this initiative will result in the imminent demise of the Dublin football team.

But it is surely better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Check in for results around 2035.

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