Belfast Telegraph

Rich rewards are out of the reach of Kerry's rivals

By Declan Bogue

A friend of mine believes that I am cursed with that most rogue of all afflictions - the GAA committee gene.

It's a fright what a few years helping out with the administration of your club can lead to. Suddenly, you are one of 'them'. One of the men who would drive 100 miles for a chicken dinner. The expenses junkies. The blazers.

In recent years, I have scaled back on my admin habit. The pre-meeting phone calls, sorting out who would bring up what issue and the most opportune time to do it, is not for me. Nor is the guilty pleasure of grown men climbing into a vehicle in a dark corner of the car park to have the 'meeting after the meeting'.

No. What I use to wean myself off the habit is a small committee member's duties with Club Eirne, a fundraising arm of the Fermanagh county board.

Last Friday we held our first annual chat night ahead of the Championship match against Antrim. Manager Pete McGrath came in to reveal the starting team and there were the usual speeches and panel discussions.

Our Chairman, Ger Treacy, revealed that we now have over 100 members, all of whom have put their hand in their pocket to cough up £500 or £1,000 as an annual fee to advance football and hurling in the county.

Calling someone out of the blue and asking them to part with that sort of dough is far from simple, but as someone said in a meeting one night, your first sale is like your first hit for the mob. It gets easier after that.

Anyway, another revelation from the night was that we have raised £55,000 since starting our work six months ago. We were delighted with ourselves. Great men altogether.

And then I read the following day that Kerry GAA are set to benefit from a week-long fundraising blitz in New York, taking home something approaching £470,000.

With a Centre of Excellence in Currans in the works, they rolled out the big guns, including Pat Spillane, Ogie Moran, Darragh ÓSé and Eoin Liston. Then there was Micheál ÓMuircheartaigh and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan. They even brought Peter Canavan, just in case the boosters got their fill of Yerra talk and wanted a different perspective.

They booked the legendary Plaza Hotel in Manhattan last Thursday, charging $1,000 a plate. Around 420 tickets were eagerly hoovered up. An auction then raised another fortune.

This is the third consecutive year that they have staged a shakedown, and there is another event planned shortly in London.

The figures are astonishing but come as no surprise. Kerry and Dublin are market leaders in the world of Gaelic football and even Kerry - with 37 All-Irelands - are virtual paupers in comparison to the Dubs.

Any number of bodies are glad and honoured to have the cache of hosting Dublin training sessions, with St Clare's off Griffith Avenue able to grant them part of DCU's extensive facilities.

They do not have to contribute towards the upkeep of their county ground, playing every game of significance in Croke Park.

Their last jersey sponsorship, agreed in November 2013, amounts to over €4 million spread over five years from the coffers of AIG.

Whatever their players go to do, they find generous benefactors willing to give them stuff for free. When the Dubs flew out to the Cayman Islands to celebrate their 2013 All-Ireland triumph, Aer Lingus became their 'official flight carriers'.

Louis Copeland are tied in with a commercial deal as their suit providers. Two years ago, Toyota announced a three-year sponsorship contract with Dublin GAA, gifting 16 vehicles to their squads.

Legacy sports management, the company of none other than Bernard Brogan and his cousin James, handle some of the players' affairs.

There is no need for a 'Club Dubs'. Big city and big money fit together seamlessly, with the corporate sector always desperate for a slice of reflected glory and a few pictures.

It ceased being an amateur sport some years ago. Now, money counts, just as it does in other arenas. This may not be to the same extent as Premiership soccer, where success is dependent on the trading of players, but there is no mistaking the maximising of potential revenue with the return of National titles.

Six out of the last 10 All-Irelands have been won by the old rivals, a figure that may grow this season.

The Leitrim jersey sponsorship, with the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon, barely reaches five figures. Their players are happy to just receive a county tracksuit.

And that's the situation with most. All we can do in Fermanagh is rely on those with the committee gene.

Belfast Telegraph


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