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Brennan's Brief Why GAA needs to come up with a way of ensuring there is money for every child to have good coaching

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Every child should have the same coaching if they join a club – no matter where that is in the country

Every child should have the same coaching if they join a club – no matter where that is in the country

Every child should have the same coaching if they join a club – no matter where that is in the country

One good thing has come out of all the recent ‘What shall we do with the Dublin football team’ debate of recent times.

It has been hammered home to those who want change that the one grant Dublin GAA gets that other counties don’t get is used in the schools and clubs of Dublin on under-age coaching.

So it was great to see former Westmeath footballer John Connellan quoted in the Irish Independent yesterday saying that “kids in Athlone and Tullamore deserve the same chance as Dublin kids”.

Spot on there, John, they do. How to implement that is another issue, but at least people now understand that the grant that Dublin get that no on else gets has not been used to turn the Dublin football team into professional athletes who have won six All-Irelands-in-a-row.

Did it help some of them when they were 12 years old and showing promise with their clubs? Yes. Does it help now? No.

When the GAA, centrally, decided to fund Dublin better two decades ago, Gaelic Games was the second biggest sport in the city, behind soccer, in most of it. And a bad third in those parts where rugby reigned supreme.

Now this is no scientific survey, but just take this as an example of the way the profile of Dublin GAA has changed. When Heffo’s Heroes burst onto the scene in 1974, there were only two Southside players, Sean Doherty (Ballyboden St. Endas) and the late Anton O’Toole (Templeogue Synge St) on the team, while Bernard Donovan (Crumlin) was one of the six subs.

In the 2020 All-Ireland Final, there were five Southsiders starting and five more in the ten named subs.

Dublin GAA used that grant to expand into the southside, especially, and catch young players who were good athletes but simply not big enough physically to get into rugby at a high level.

They also used it in a clever way, insisting that any club who wanted to use that grant money to hire a coach would only get €15,000 of the coach’s €30,000 salary – the club would have to raise the rest itself. And so they turned a €1million grant into a €2million grant.

That is one of the huge advantages Dublin GAA does have – but it is rarely mentioned – the ability to fundraise from a much bigger population than other, more rural, counties.

But then you have the other side of things. I was chatting with a former All-Ireland winning captain not so long ago about this issue and I offered the opinion that his small rural club might get together with its two neighbours, raise €5000 each which would be a more realistic target, and then they should approach Croke Park looking for the other €15,000 to hire a coach.

And I said to him, ‘if you are refused come back to me, because then we both have a story to tell. Your club and your neighbouring clubs are not being treated the same as any Dublin club’.

His answer – “ah sure, we couldn’t be co-operating with them hoors beside us.”

The GAA needs to get rid of that mentality, and also to come up with a way of ensuring that there is money for every child to have good coaching if they join a club – no matter where that is in the country.

Maybe when this awful virus is behind us, they will set out on that road.

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