Ballinderry Shamrocks' expensive London journey highlights rising cost of success
This weekend, Ballinderry Shamrocks will take a travelling party to Ruislip, London, to play Kingdom Kerry Gaels in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
The travelling party will consist of 40 people. Consider that they carry a panel of 30 players, then there are five figures in the managerial backroom, not to mention those involved in administration and logistical matters, it is clear that it is not a jolly trip for the lads.
They have trimmed that number as low as it can go without having to hand over responsibilities of catching buses etc to the players.
Ballinderry have spent millions on the development of their club in recent years, and have had to go knocking on the same doors in recent days.
Club officials estimate that it will cost them, give or take a grand, around £15,000 to get to London. They are leaving at Saturday lunchtime, spending Saturday night over there, and returning on a 7pm flight back to Belfast on Sunday. There is no time for post-match pints or a night out, and no opportunity for wives to get a bit of Christmas shopping done unless they do it off their own bat.
The GAA will provide a grant of €10,000, which will make up £8,360. In their run to the Ulster club final, they were awarded their share of the gate. 50% of the gate is donated to each competing team, so the Ulster Council have done their bit here too.
The rest of the money, the club are left to come up with.
This leaves a shortfall. Some creative thinking from club officers came up with the idea of businesses sponsoring players to the tune of £200 each to help with the cost of flights, transport on the ground, hotels, meals and sundry expenses.
As admirable as the club are in raising this level of finance, and as generous as the community (it has been interesting to note on Twitter the shout outs from the club to members of other clubs for their generosity) it still won't be enough.
I would be inclined to ask why clubs have to overstretch themselves to go and fulfil a fixture in England or Scotland. Apart from the very odd time, they are nothing much more than landslide victories, for all the progress of the London county team this season.
Ballinderry's Stephen McGeehan is kinder, saying "The fixtures are made the previous November. If we are going to continue to promote this game in Britain, we must do it in a way that is cost-neutral to the clubs involved."
It's a sensible suggestion. Although the fixtures are known in November, there are no guarantees you could win your title.
So why are clubs being punished for their success?