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great divide The gap between Dublin and the rest of the country must be fairly addressed

"Those counties that have consistently been biting the dust against the Dubs for over a decade need some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel."

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Provincial rivalry: Leinster chief Pat Teehan (pictured) sparked the ire of Westmeath’s John Connellan. Photo: Sportsfile

Provincial rivalry: Leinster chief Pat Teehan (pictured) sparked the ire of Westmeath’s John Connellan. Photo: Sportsfile

Provincial rivalry: Leinster chief Pat Teehan (pictured) sparked the ire of Westmeath’s John Connellan. Photo: Sportsfile

The gap between Dublin and the chasing pack was as big as ever during the 2020 championship, with aggregate victories of 74 points over five games. The big question remains: what can be done to enable other counties to close that margin?

It won't happen over night. Nothing good rarely does, but those counties that have consistently been biting the dust against the Dubs for over a decade need some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That ray of sunshine didn't come from Leinster chairman Pat Teehan in his virtual address to the province's convention on Monday. Many took umbrage with his comments relating to Dublin and the reasons for their unrivalled success in recent years.

Teehan spoke of the "negative manner" with which Dublin have been targeted after their sixth All-Ireland SFC title in succession, as well as a tenth Leinster crown in-a-row, in what he perceives to be "a collective collaboration to prevent a team from being successful".

The Offaly native insisted that "the people calling for their dismantling have short memories". He also outlined how "a vibrant GAA in the capital is good for the entire Association and no amount of misguided commentary can change that fact".

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John Connellan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Connellan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Connellan. Photo: Sportsfile

Few outside of Dublin could agree with that last statement and while the general public admire their brilliance, most are sick of their dominance at senior level and want to see others also getting a fair crack at the whip and joining the top table.

One such person is former Westmeath footballer John Connellan. He took great exception to Teehan's assertion that other counties "cannot simply throw in the towel" as a result of Dublin's superiority and that they must "raise standards".

Connellan said: "There should be alarm bells and red flags going off in Leinster offices in Portlaoise and then the chairman comes out and says, 'no, in fact, this is good for the Association', when we all see that the Leinster championship is dead and buried.

"It seems so out of touch, particularly in light of the reaction that has come from this debate. It seems the vast majority of people across the country want to see change.

"It's been interesting to see some of the GAA personnel coming out in recent weeks and toeing the party line - 'nothing to see here' - when so many people across the country realise there's something that just isn't fair that needs to be addressed."

Connellan is playing his part having written to every county secretary outside of Dublin. In his correspondence, he has outlined a motion which he hopes to table at the 2022 GAA Congress to call for Games Development Funding to be allocated based on the number of registered GAA members in each county.

The Athlone clubman, a barrister by profession, proposes to "address the imbalance around fair and equal funding".

He views Dublin's Games Development Funding as totally "disproportionate" at €14.16 per head of population from 2007 to 2017, nearly three times more than the €5 per head outside of the capital.

"The current GAA player experience and pathway of a child in a school in Dublin is so far superior and so far disproportionately funded than a young child in a school or club in Athlone or Tullamore or Portlaoise. Why is that acceptable?" he said.

"All we're asking for is that no longer are the Dublin schools funded so disproportionately at the expense of the clubs and schools down the country. It's as simple as that, it should be like pushing an open door.

"But for whatever reason, the powers-that-be don't want to look at it that way. Can we bring the player pathway or experience up to the same level as that of a child in Dublin? They are polar opposites at the moment."

Future

Connellan acknowledges that funding imbalances may take "15 to 20 years to bare fruition" at senior level, but insists "you have to start somewhere". He implores clubs and counties to take their future into their own hands in the wake of Teehan's remarks.

"For one of the top administrators in the country to come out with remarks like that, it seems change is going to be more difficult to come about than we had envisaged and it's going to have to come from the clubs and the grassroots members," the former Lake County star said.

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Bryan Menton of Meath after the Leinster final loss to Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile. Photo: Sportsfile

Bryan Menton of Meath after the Leinster final loss to Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile. Photo: Sportsfile

Bryan Menton of Meath after the Leinster final loss to Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile. Photo: Sportsfile

"We're hoping that the clubs will take ownership of it on the basis that they agree with what we're proposing and that they approve it at their executive and bring it forward to their county congress and bring it on to GAA Congress 2022.

"Hopefully a number of county boards will bring this to Congress themselves and bring about a change, because it seems clear that the administrators in the GAA are completely out of touch with the feelings of the members of their association."

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