Belfast Telegraph

Our grounds for complaint over GAA's new National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown

By Declan Bogue

Sometimes the story is more interesting when you consider the details that have been left out.

After the launch of the GAA's new National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown, it emerged that the Dublin county board would be footing the bill for kitting out a state of the art gymnasium. This work will be under the supervision of their high-performance manager, the 2011 All-Ireland winning captain Bryan Cullen.

Dublin county board Chairman Sean Shanley has confirmed that the senior footballers and hurlers will continue to train at DCU's pitches in St Clare's, Glasnevin.

The Abbotstown facility will be used, however, by the county minor and Under-21 teams.

This is all very well for Dublin. Good for them.

Locally, we have watched capital projects go up and flourish in Ulster. Tyrone, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Derry have all worked extremely hard to get their training facilities in order. I wonder what some of the pioneers of those projects feel about Abbotstown?

You might look at the title - National Games Development Centre - and think everyone has a share in it.

But where does this leave other counties that have made such an effort to knock on doors, sell tickets and rely on voluntary efforts to provide their players with acceptable facilities?

Consider the other counties that are within striking distance of the 30-acre site.

Meath have a facility in Dunganny. They are happy with getting into Abbotstown to host under-age games.

Kildare have their place in Hawkfield. When Kieran McGeeney was there, the tradesmen on the panel (they still exist, you know) kitted out their own gym.

Louth have a superb facility at Darver, but all these places require the bills paid, wages met and general upkeep costs.

At Abbotstown's unveiling, GAA President Aogan O'Fearghail told the story of somebody from Mayo taking only two hours to get there, and a Waterford colleague who only has an hour and a half journey.

But what does that matter when Mayo have a Connacht Centre of Excellence in Claremorris and Waterford prepare at the Waterford Institute of Technology campus?

So, who all might use this facility in Abbotstown?

Well, a number of county panels train regularly in Dublin as a small group.

Tony McEntee is known to take the Dublin-based Mayo players once a week. There might be an argument made that all these satellite teams could gather up and take advantage of the facilities.

They could all train alongside each other and show exactly where they are at with their strength, conditioning and aerobic fitness. And I might grow a tail. We live in times when men are spotted in trees spying on training sessions.

At the Monaghan training complex in Cloghan, former manager Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney was known to have got a friend to park in the lay-by with a truck and trailer to prevent any reconnaissance.

Heading into the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship last year, Mickey Harte pulled Tyrone training out of the wide open spaces of Garvaghey, preferring to hunker down among local clubs.

Subterfuge and secrecy is now an essential tool in a team's armour. At certain times, Gaelic football is interesting for what you do not see. Look at how Donegal took a dive last weekend in the league semi-final against Dublin and the rush by pundits to condemn this as 'the end of something'.

As if the four goals they gave up to Cork in losing last year's semi-final never happened. Details left out, as we said before.

With that knowledge, teams would never be happy to put themselves in the shop window of Abbotstown for potential snoops.

Dublin had planned to do something in Rathcoole. Now that they will enjoy the largesse of the Abbotstown development, those funds which are reportedly in the region of €2million will now be employed in some other capacity. With an additional €4million from their jersey sponsorship deal signed in 2013 alone, cutting corners won't be on the agenda.

The Dublin football domination has already begun. Can anyone say that Kilkenny's excellence has been good for the game of hurling?

It used to be said that managing Dublin was a hard gig. The hard facts contradict that.

The easiest management job in the country is Dublin. Especially when they get a leg up.

Belfast Telegraph

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