Time to Share the Wealth?

With the news that Kildare Secretary Kathleen O’Neill has called on all GAA funding to be pooled in the hope that certain counties don’t race ahead of the pack, there is plenty of debate on both sides of the argument. Unfortunately most of that debate will be ill-informed, point-scoring stuff that will do no one any good whatsoever.

No one truly hates the Dubs. Ever sport needs a panto villain, and let’s face it Dublin are that. The problem for the majority of the country is that Dublin are now at a stage that they have never really been at before. They are beginning to look so dominant that it is starting to worry many.

I have seen frankly ludicrous statements recently from Dublin supporters pleading the poor mouth in terms of what they have won. “We’ve only won three All-Irelands in twenty years”.. etc, etc. (By the way All-Irelands for Dublin supporters is just Sam Maguire, hurling, having only been invented when ‘Dalo’ took over, for the majority, isn’t that important yet). Well last time I looked only one team has won more than three Sam Maguires in the last twenty years. And you can spin stats anyway you want can’t you- No county has won more All-Irelands in the last year, the last three years, the last five years even….

Another argument is that despite having the majority of the population, “well sure how many are Irish?” Again laughable and out-dated. GAA clubs and counties up and down the country are seeing more and more non-nationals play both hurling and football everyday, and the fact is that if counties don’t integrate non-nationals into their sports then they are being idiotic. Dublin therefore clearly has a distinct advantage in numbers. But then it always has had that and they have at times struggled, so why the big problem in recent years with Dublin’s advantages?

As the GAA has become more and more like a professional sport facilities have had to be upgraded in every county. County boards have been forking out for the up-keep of their grounds, their training facilities and much more. In terms of Dublin though let’s be honest they haven’t had the same outlay have they? Parnell Park is Parnell Park. Could they extend, make bigger, the “home stadium” of the biggest population in the GAA? Is there room or would the residents of Donnycarney object? They could have built a bigger stadium somewhere else in the county but then Croke Park is up the road there and well you know…

Aside from the usual digs at Croke Park being a home venue for Dublin, the point is, the Dublin Co Board have not had to invest in facilities as have other counties. Hawkfield in Kildare has bled the county dry but was a necessary evil. McHale Park in Castlebar has cost the county board millions, but again was necessary. Dublin, unless they have invested in the Westmanstown and DCU facilities, have not had the same issues.

The problem though as well is that why should Dublin share the money that they have worked so hard to raise? Have they not spent exhaustive hours hammering out their deal with AIG and other sponsors? Why should they have to share their spoils with other counties who have less financial acumen than a fish? I have sat at numerous Kildare Co Board meetings where fund-raising ideas have been sought and the sea of blank faces has been shocking. We once come up with more ideas at the media table in five minutes than I have seen in two years from delegates or the board. Who in the name of all that is right and proper relies on a CHURCH GATE COLLECTION in this day and age when Mass numbers are at a serious low and half the county thinks that the money is going straight to the manager anyway?? It is ludicrous and would be laughable if they Kildare finances weren’t in such a poor state.

I am not going to come up with a solution here to what is indeed a serious issue. Dublin are doing what Dublin need to do for themselves. Other counties need to get their house in order as well, maximise their worth and stop dragging their feet using Dublin as a scapegoat for all the ills of the GAA. Is it a level playing field? Certainly not. But what is certain, it won’t be solved by people taking cheap and ill-informed potshots at each other. We don’t always need a strong Dublin for the sake of the GAA, but we do need a strong GAA for the good of the country. It’s time to remember that.

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