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A million reasons for joy and regret

By John Campbell

The 1,000,000 mark has been reached in the context of the Bank of Ireland All Ireland Football Championship - and on two fronts, too.


Already the overall attendance figure for matches in the championship has exceeded this number.

And while that is a huge bonus for the GAA, the Kerry county board is perhaps less than enthusiastic about the fact that the costs of preparing their various county teams is now approaching the intimidating figure of €1,000,000.

The marketing theme of this year's Championship was once again 'Extraordinary' - marketing recognition of the unbridled passion and dedication that both players and fans bring to the competition.

Indeed, Bank of Ireland ran a hugely successful Top 15 competition asking the public to name their leading gaelic footballers of the past fifteen years.

An unprecedented number of entries were received -and €15,000 was up for grabs by the winner!

But while someone will pocket this bonus, the costs of preparing teams for championship competitions continue to soar.

Last year, indeed, Kerry spent €776,871 on their inter-county teams which was a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.

And with a similar percentage increase expected to be confirmed this time round, the county board is being saddled with a €1m expenditure.

"Four All-Ireland finals in a row have drained us to the limit," admits Kerry secretary Eamon O'Sullivan, "Panel sizes have increased by 25 per cent, petrol has increased by 33 per cent over recent years, and accommodation and food expenses have all gone up."

It's a headache shared by all other county boards, of course.

Yet many of them would love to be in Kerry's position right now - counting the cost of ongoing success.

When Tyrone won their two All Ireland titles to date in 2003 and 2005, the county board obviously dug deep to finance preparations and training.

But they also capitalised on the team's success through clever marketing and promotional ploys.

Indeed, Tyrone laid down a marker on how to transform success into a grassroots benefit.

The fact, too, that some one million fans have flocked through the turnstiles to watch championship matches is a bonus, not least because qualifier games have to a certain extent been stripped of some of their appeal.

The timing and location of some of these games has left followers less than impressed although some of the matches have nonetheless produced excellent fare.

But in what is already a congested fixtures calendar, it is inevitable that overlapping will occur.

And it is a recognised fact that it has become extremely costly to attend championship matches, certainly on a regular basis and particularly for family groups.

Belfast Telegraph


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