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Dubs funding debate | 'The money tap should be turned off if there's a drought elsewhere'

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

10:53 24 Nov 2020

Westmeath's John Connellan sparked nationwide debate about the Dubs' dominance in Leinster football last weekend, and joined OTB AM to discuss the direction of football.

Connellan is pessimistic about the future of Leinster football and believes that the All Ireland Championship is 'under threat' from the dominance of one team.

Connellan is keen to clarify that this is not a direct criticism of the Dubs - indeed, he praises their business acumen - but believes that the disparity in finances between Dublin clubs and those outside is stark.

Dubs GAA funding debate

"With the game's development funding, which is where we see the massive gap in the allocation of funding across the country, Dublin are light years ahead in terms of what they get," Connellan told OTB AM.

"I know the argument will made about population and the amount of young kids in schools in Dublin. But what we have seen is Dublin get a completely disproportionate amount in terms of the game's development funding.

"For instance, Kilmacud Crokes on their website have a membership of 4,800 members. The cheapest membership they have is €160 for a student. The most expensive membership they have in Kilmacud is €650 for a family membership. If we just take the cheapest membership in Kilmacud, that is an annual income of €768,000.

"A club like my own can only dream of taking in €768,000, and we are being generous to Kilmacud in that that is the lowest they could be making from membership."

'Behemoth' Dubs

Connellan believes that Dublin clubs are now able to go and source the best coaching talent without centrally-allocated funding.

"My argument is that the GAA have done a fantastic job at promoting games, we can see that Dublin are just a behemoth now and who doesn't enjoy watching Con O'Callaghan in full flight?

"I absolutely love watching the Dubs but the tap can now be turned off. Clubs in Dublin are self-sustainable and the county board is self-sustainable. Outside of the capital, a lot of us are really struggling.

"We need to take responsibility for that, there has possibly been money spent in county boards across the country not where it should be spent. But we need more assistance from the GAA; we need more funding and more assistance in how our funds are spent in that we are spending them in the right way."

Connellan believes that a 'one size fits all' model does not suit the ethos of amateurism when clubs in Dublin could be sitting on enormous cash reserves in addition to central GAA funding.

"[Other counties] need to take a lot of that Dublin-administered funding; they are self-sufficient now and distribute it to where we are in drought around the country."

Anthony Moyles

Meath's Anthony Moyles joined the debate about how the club and county game can be funded at a time where there are apparent disparities between areas in Ireland.

While sympathetic to Connellan's point of view, he presented a view that the Dubs should be seen as an aspirational example of what counties can achieve, rather than try to get them to cede funding.

Referencing Pat Gilroy's approach to reimagining Dublin football, Moyles believes that other counties need to follow suit, rather than solely focusing on financing.

"I flip and flop when I hear people saying Dublin needs to be split and brought back into the pack. The competitive side of me says 'no, there has to be another way that others can up their game.'

"Yes, I agree with the funding. Yes, I agree that things have to be enhanced to other counties. But Dublin are so viable as a commercial entity that if I was Vodafone or AIG, who would I want to sponsor? I would want to sponsor the team that is going to get the most exposure.

"If I was being told at board level that the money I am putting into the GAA has to be sent down to all different parts of the country, I might think that I might have better things to be doing than spending all of my money on  this.

"You have to be careful with what you wish for with all that stuff."

Planning & execution

To exemplify a plan to that end, Moyles focused on his own county.

"What I would love in Meath is that both clubs and the county board decide that they are going to set a template and that that is to produce the best footballer for the inter-county team that can go and challenge Dublin.

"[For them to say] 'We are not just going to shoot the manager every couple of years because he is not getting the results and we are not just going to blame the players because they are doing their best. We are going to give them the best possible way.'

"The last thing I will say is that I read Colm O'Rourke's article and that he was embarrassed with the result. There is a man who has been around the Meath situation for years, managing Simonstown and everything else. The county board are crying out for a man like that.

"We spoke about John Costello - he became the [managing director] of Pat Gilroy's business plan. He did a remarkable job and it was good to hear that Westmeath have put someone in place. That is what is required.

"You need someone at the top who is going to be able to make decisions aligned with where the county is going. If Colm O'Rourke wanted to do a job, then that is the job for him."

Split Dublin?

Final word to the man that sparked the debate, as he was asked whether Dublin being split would solve the problem.

"You may be right that Dublin needs to be split, but we may be looking at putting the cart before the horse here.

"Before we develop the other counties, before we give others the chance to even try and bridge the gap, that is slightly putting the cart before the horse. Ultimately, that might be what needs to happen.

"Before we [get Dublin clubs' agreement to do that], we need to develop the counties outside of Leinster."

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