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DEBATE: Ewan MacKenna and Sean...
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DEBATE: Ewan MacKenna and Sean Kelly talk GAA financial imbalance and Dublin dominance

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

20:37 19 Sep 2017

As another All Ireland Football Championship draws to a close, thoughts are turning to achieving greater balance between the county teams in the sport.

Journalist Ewan MacKenna and former GAA president Sean Kelly MEP joined us to discuss that very topic as well as the reasons and long-term effects of Dublin dominance and what the GAA should or shouldn't do to address the issue. 

MacKenna touched on the financial disparity between Dublin and other counties.

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player or stream/download on iTunes:

DEBATE: Ewan MacKenna and Sean Kelly talk GAA financial imbalance and Dublin dominance

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

"Mayo, €22.30 per club registered player between 2010 and 2014 in games development money. Tyrone, €21, Kerry, €19. It goes on like this," he said, before continuing.

"Dublin, €270.70 and before I came on, people will say we need to redress the balance, we need to throw money at other counties as well. We absolutely do but we don't have that money because what we have now is other teams that are so far behind, with massive natural disadvantages that aren't the GAA's fault in terms of distance to facilities, population and all that. But there are 330,082 registered players outside of Dublin. Were you to bring the level back up to what Dublin are getting (€270.70 per player) that would cost €90 million. The current budget for the other 31 counties in games development is €3 million. You'd have to find €87 million to just level the field."

Former GAA President Sean Kelly ©INPHO/James Crombie

At the start of the time that Kelly was GAA president between 2003 and 2006, the outgoing president Sean McCague advised him to chair a committee on Dublin at a time when GAA in Dublin was struggling. He explained the workings of that and the importance back then of "being strong in Dublin" in an era when other major sports were providing competition, but also made a suggestion he feels could be a viable solution.

"There is no way, as things stand, no matter how much money you pump in to at least half the counties in Ireland, that they have both the human resources or the financial resources to ever win an All Ireland and unless we think seriously about a second tier Championship through which they can progress onto higher levels, then I think the gap between the top teams and the bottom teams will continue to widen," said Kelly.

On the question of games development money going to Dublin, he feels that "sustainability should now been assured and really there needs to be more either extra money coming in which should be available to the other counties which might allow you to continue the funding in Dublin but definitely vis a vis the other counties there is need to invest more in the counties outside of Dublin than there was 10 years ago. It's definitely something we have to look at."

 A general view of the GAA National Games Development Centre ©INPHO/Tommy Grealy

While Ewan believes "it's admirable to want to give the other counties more, they're starting way behind without all these advantages".

He explained: "Giving them less won't see them catch up and the likes of Leitrim aren't going to dump the Bush Hotel because they've got good structures and go to Samsung and sign up €1 million and all of this. And I said, studies in other sports actually show that teams without natural advantages such as population, they actually need more money than the big teams to try and compete."

He added that "it's a bit like putting Manchester City in the Conference and saying other teams should do more".

The debate about splitting Dublin into Dublin North and Dublin South was touched upon but Kelly feels there are other things that can be looked at first before broaching an enforced split.

He queried: "I'm not sure about that. I think it's probably premature. If they won five or six in a row, you'll probably do it. But you'd have to ask yourself, what's the purpose of splitting them? Is it to make the GAA stronger in Dublin or just to make them win less All Irelands?" 

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