It was pitiful to watch Armagh, such a traditional GAA county, bereft of talent, leadership and structure last Sunday when they were easily beaten by Cavan in Breffni Park. One cannot take away from a Cavan set-up which has embraced the professional approach needed to compete in inter-county football nowadays. Like Derry, Armagh are being left behind as a result of the demands of the modern game.
I wrote here last year that the fun has gone out of the game for the players and that the entertainment value has lessened greatly for the supporters.
Indeed Cavan have improved but they certainly are no world beaters. They, too, will be consigned to the back-door qualifiers when they meet Tyrone which is another avenue of false hope.
I listened to the various experts on BBC and RTE last Sunday who cited varying reasons for Armagh’s demise in recent times. They ranged from Kieran McGeeney’s ability to manage to unavailability of certain players. It is blatantly obvious that our game has become dull and boring because a select few counties have decided to invest in their inter-county set ups. Dublin are obviously leading the way with Kerry not far behind.
Since the advent of sponsorship followed by corporate involvement, the GAA has become a business and our games have become the products. We are hanging on to our amateur status by threads. Those counties unable to attract wealthy sponsors are suffering. There isn’t a level playing field currently. If sponsorship was banned or non-existant, as it was in my playing days, would things even out? I’d say so. That will not happen though. The game has come too far. We only have to look at the code of soccer where the richest clubs prevail. I accept that they can buy success in the transfer market but these clubs also have the best facilities and academies.
Some cynics about the GAA often refer to us as the Grab All Association. There certainly is some truth in their thinking. It is only the select few counties who are benefitting though. The GAA has played its part in pushing Dublin up to the top of the pile. They realised that in order to have a strong Association that Dublin needed encouragement.
Dublin were an average team competing with the other average teams in the past 15 to 20 years before 2012. The GAA decided that they weren’t winning enough All-Ireland titles. Dublin received €1.588million in 2012, more than the €1.46m it received over the past two years.
The games development funding paid to Dublin since a special deal was arranged with the Irish Sports Council in 2005 has now surpassed €16m.
I accept that the largest concentration of population merits receiving the most money but the ratios are completely off the scale. Dublin County has a population of around 1.3m – just over twice that of Antrim. Dublin receives 30 times more money than Antrim when the population is only about twice as large. Down's population of more than is 530,000 represents about 40 per cent of Dublin; but Down gets less than three per cent of Dublin's games development funding.
Look at other counties with large urban centres, such as Cork. Again, around 40 per cent of Dublin's population, but just five per cent of the funding. Galway is about 20 per cent of the population of Dublin gets four per cent of the funding. Derry which is also about 20 per cent of the population receives less than three per cent of the funding.
To put all of this into context we can look at this in terms of euro per head of population and comparing Dublin to the Ulster counties: Dublin €1.14, Cavan 0.81, Monaghan 0.67, Fermanagh 0.64, Donegal 0.25, Armagh and Tyrone 0.23, Derry 0.17, Down 0.08 and Antrim 0.0766.
The GAA has created a monster in Dublin GAA which the rest is trying to follow. The Croke Park business machine is out of control and very lop-sided. RTE and BBC are screening only those live games which are supposed to entertain. Few know that Mayo went to London and hammered them while Clare and Limerick scrapped for a chance to be beaten by Kerry in the Munster final. There have been three games already in the Leinster Football Championship; Laois overcame Wicklow for honour of taking a hiding from Dublin this Saturday evening.
I’m presuming that Down will fall to Monaghan this Sunday.
The good news is that Donegal will beat Fermanagh on Sunday week. I cannot see things changing much in the near future on the GAA front in terms of excitement. It will be July before we get a decent game. Joe Brolly is as exciting as it gets for now. We need somebody to liven up the championship. This weekend I’m not taking any chances. The weather forecast is good for Sunday so I’ll be heading for Rossnowlagh.
But as always, keep the faith!