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Dublin's rule not all down to finances: McGonigle

 

Gregory McGonigle
Gregory McGonigle
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Gregory McGonigle, who represented Derry in both football and hurling before moving to Dublin to focus on his coaching career, today finds himself assessing the contrasting fortunes of two counties that perhaps best sum up the conundrum that is the All-Ireland Football Championship.

Dungiven native McGonigle has looked on as Derry plunged into Division Four of the Allianz League before regaining stability and clinching promotion to Division Three earlier this year - a step that was viewed as a pre-Championship boost.

But when Tyrone ended the team's hopes of making an impact in the Ulster Championship for the first time since 1998 and Laois surprisingly scuppered their prospects of a meaningful run in the qualifiers, a curtain of gloom came down once again on the Oak Leaf County.

And when manager Damian McErlain decided to take his leave, the county board were landed with yet another headache.

All of this is in sharp contrast to the buoyancy, enthusiasm and passion in which McGonigle has found himself immersed since becoming involved in coaching in Dublin.

He took charge of the Dublin ladies football side for three years until 2016 and has been associated with the St Maurs club in Rush during a period in which Dublin's authority in the All-Ireland arena is virtually unchallenged.

Yet while his native county try to find their feet, McGonigle's affiliation with the Dublin scene has afforded him an insight as to just why Jim Gavin's side are streets ahead of the rest - and what he feels could be done to help other sides play catch-up.

"I'd love to see a breakdown of what each county is having to spend on travelling expenses of players and management. I'd say compared to a Mayo, Donegal or Galway, Dublin's are minimal because all their players are living locally," insisted McGonigle.

And while debate rages on possible additional funding for counties in tandem with speculation on a second tier All-Ireland Championship, McGonigle simply cuts to the quick.

"I think adequate funding should be available to everybody. There's enough money in the GAA to make it happen and self-sustainable," he maintained.

And all the time the Dublin conveyor belt of talent is operating at full throttle.

The St Maurs club has just unearthed the county's latest shining jewel in Ciaran Archer, who has been named the U20 Player of the Year following his stunning scoring for Dublin during the Championship.

"When you look at someone like Archer, the scores he has been getting were not the product of a games development officer or sponsorship from AIG. No, they were the product of a superb work ethic, a willingness to learn and a love of the game," insisted McGonigle.

"And it has to be said that having good management teams like those headed up by Pat Gilroy and Jim Gavin is a big help in getting success. When you have success, everyone aspires to be part of it. Tell me, in the late '90s and early Noughties, did everyone want to play for Dublin?"

Indeed, from the mid-90s to the early Noughties it was teams such as Meath, Kerry and Galway who dominated the All-Ireland stage before Armagh (2002) and Tyrone (2003) came from nowhere to enter the record books for the first time.

But with generous sponsorship, robust coaching resources and strong backroom teams now very much a feature of the inter-county scene, particularly at the top level, there is clear evidence that the strong are becoming stronger with the weaker counties relegated to virtual anonymity.

And that's one of the reasons why GAA chiefs are likely to carry out a detailed review of the Super 8s in particular when the curtain comes down on this year's Championship.

The series will remain on the fixtures calendar for another year but the competition may be tweaked, certainly in relation to the timing and venues for games.

Belfast Telegraph

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