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When it comes to financial clout, Dublin are in whole different league

By Declan Bogue

Published 21/09/2016

Pulling power: Dublin and Mayo get shirty in the drawn All-Ireland final
Pulling power: Dublin and Mayo get shirty in the drawn All-Ireland final

Over 82,000 fans at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon watched Mayo and Dublin's battle for the All-Ireland crown end in a draw, meaning they have to do it all over again on October 1.

One point though. One team have an almost bottomless pit of funding to help them achieve their goals. Every other side in the competition, well, at best they get by, but aren't close to an even footing with Dublin.

This is the elephant in the room with the GAA's a la carte relationship with amateurism.

There is no doubt that with all this cash flowing around, Dublin are making the most of it from a commercial point of view. They have former player Tomás Quinn as Commercial Director and have 'commercial synergy' with many companies.

The Gibson Hotel is their official hotel partner, while Aer Lingus is the official airline. Club Energise, Skins, Toyota, Ballygowan, Linwoods, Ros Nutrition… they are all desperate to be associated with the defending champions.

At half-time in Sunday's final, RTÉ aired an amusing advert with the Dublin panel admiring each other in their new Benetti suits.

We just wonder about an indulgence of Dublin spilling into official ranks, though.

For example, why did the melee in the tunnel happen on Sunday?

When Dublin play in Croke Park, they treat it like a home game. They leave their opponents stewing in their dressing room behind schedule until they come out at their leisure.

It's accepted practice at this stage.

With a replay looming, it's amazing that the idea of playing that game somewhere other than Croke Park is unthinkable.

But back to the incredible Dublin earning potential. What are the effects?

Well, if economic history has taught us anything, there is no such thing as 'trickle-down economics'. While other counties are burning out volunteers, businesses and sponsors, others are heading across to America for annual golf outings and dinners.

In the meantime, participation numbers at under-age level are more valued in certain areas than others.

For the last decade, €1m (£857,000) a year of government funding has gone into coaching children in Dublin. That's 47% of the entire GAA games development budget.

The macro figures are equally astonishing.

Since 2010, Dublin have been the biggest spending county. In the five years to 2015, they spent £7,976,677.

Now, take a county like Antrim, and a city like Belfast. They are crying out for investment from the GAA, not only to capitalise on the huge urban population but to create greater social cohesion. Their spend in that time? Try £2,050,094.

Not enough. Not close. But there are mitigating factors. While Antrim have poured time, energy and expertise into trying to get their Dunsilly training ground project off the ground, that's the sort of facility that the Dubs can just walk into, such as the new National Campus in... Abbotstown!

How do we address the imbalance? That's another column. But it's suffice to say, since the door was opened to commercialism, this day has been waiting to happen.

In a few weeks, a financial document of projected figures and analysis will be presented to the very highest powers of the GAA from the county executive of Antrim, detailing their hopes, ambitions and targets for the next decade.

If it is backed, the Saffrons have a chance of launching themselves into a brave new world. We reserve judgment until then.

Belfast Telegraph

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