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Tyrone's costs sound very high but so are their rivals

By Declan Bogue

Published 30/09/2015

Numbers game: Mickey Harte and his backroom staff ahead of a clash with Donegal in Ballybofey
Numbers game: Mickey Harte and his backroom staff ahead of a clash with Donegal in Ballybofey

After climbing the Hogan Stand steps to accept the O’Duffy Cup, the All-Ireland camogie title, Cork captain Ashling Thompson thanked the Rebellettes backroom team, noting that there were “too many of ye to mention.”

The backroom team for the Cork camogie team numbered Paudie Murray the manager and his eight — eight! — selectors.

During the year, they went to Spike Island — not the one on the Mersey made famous by the Stone Roses love-in in 1990, but one just off Cobh — for a weekend of horrific torture.

Player Katrina Mackey recalled the Full Metal Jacket treatment: “It was horrendous. For the first hour they let us walk around and have a cup of tea. I suppose it was luring us into a false sense of security.

“But then we had to trek around the island carrying rifles and sacks with rocks in them, weighing nearly 50kgs, on our backs. We only had military ration packs, which we had to cook ourselves, and it was freezing in the tent. I’d seven jackets on and I still couldn’t get warm.”

You think that kind of preparation is extravagant? Perhaps it might surprise some, but the entire world of preparation in the GAA has moved into a new stratosphere.

Back a couple of weeks ago, and we lose track of these things almost instantly, Mickey Harte’s future as Tyrone manager was in doubt. One of the bugbears of the county board was the size of his backroom, which numbered 14.

The cost of Tyrone’s backroom was something causing them concern.

The reality of the situation is that Tyrone are, like any other county now, forced to go along with market values and an approach that is increasingly — and rightly — centred around player welfare.

As a result, the costs for preparing teams can often be eye-watering to those not au fait with what is required at this level.

In 2013, Tyrone footballers reached an All-Ireland semi-final. The overall expenditure for their county teams, including hurlers and underage representatives, came in at £468,989. A year later, they were beaten after four games, but the overall expenditure was £411,354.

Some expenses cannot be avoided, but stick out nonetheless. For example, in 2014 Tyrone’s senior footballers cost £57,521 in players’ travel expenses. Their medical, physiotherapy and nutritional bill was £55,043. Catering cost £39,783 last year.

Spread out over the course of a year, their monthly bill to keep the show on the road with all their county teams was £39,082 in 2013 and £34,279 in 2014.

Off-setting that expenditure are a number of revenue streams. Sponsorship brought in £260,903 in 2013, increasing to £282,050 the following season.

But this is merely one wing of the GAA in Tyrone.

You have to also factor in coaching and games development — with all the materials and salaries that requires — administration, upkeep of premises and dozens of other necessary expenses.

Another Ulster county, who have big ambitions but work off a very modest backroom team, have a monthly expenditure of around £20,000 to keep their panel and backroom team in food and diesel. It’s almost identical to the Tyrone bill.

To you and I and all the rest of the mortgage prisoners, that sounds like a lot of money. But it is actually one of the lower bills to prepare an inter-county football team during the season.

This week, the media met with new Derry boss Damian Barton. He mentioned that he was looking forward to getting down to the football element of the job, as that might be the easiest part.

The race to win honours costs a lot of money. That element alone might account for him admitting to waking at half four the other night.

Who would want a job like that as their pastime?

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