Thursday 14 December 2017

Gap is widening between Dublin and chasing pack

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The widening disparity between county teams is set to become even more embarrassing if the developments of the past week are to be believed.

Dublin G.A.A's decision to appoint Bryan Cullen as High Performance Manager suggests they are determined to see the gap between the haves and have nots widen even more.

As counties, particularly those in Dublin-dominated Leinster, were beginning their year discussing how to close the widening gap, the financial clout of the boys in blue demonstrated their determination not just to remain the leading force in Leinster but also the entire country.

It's always interesting to read how other counties intend closing a gap, which is rapidly widening, but with the flow of revenue into counties like Dublin, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo, the minority counties are dropping more and more off the competitive ladder.

We see what money is doing to both soccer and rugby, and in G.A.A. the big money counties are now becoming the dominant force, winning all the silverware, taking in expensive holidays, commanding key jobs, and having organised training sessions backed up by revenue and food.

Early morning training sessions coupled with breakfast are also part of the schedule, as they are top of the tree in earning power and success on the field.

The same pattern as in rugby and soccer is now emerging in G.A.A. Many will say Dublin has the talent pool of players at present to dominate and they would be competitive in Leinster and the All-Ireland series without the resources they currently enjoy. But it's the financial clout that's helping them get stronger and stronger, leaving their traditional rivals in Leinster in their wake.

Now gone are the days when neutrals looked forward to the Dublin-Meath championship rivalry that packed Croke Park. This has disappeared as even a county with the footballing tradition of Meath is unable to match the resources which the Dublin squad currently enjoys.

Moving through a province like Leinster, it's easy to point to the talent available in the majority of counties. But when it comes to the type of preparation to match that of Dublin, the players accept there is no silverware in it for them, as the gap has continued to widen, leaving them just to play for the pride of their county.

It has to be accepted that players, just to give Wexford as an example, realise there's no championship glory in this as the county, like up to 20 other counties, simply have no realistic chance of provincial or All-Ireland success. So it's very difficult to see the players up the commitment, which even at this time is exceptional, given the fact so little success will come their way.

When the likes of Dublin and the other strong counties have an open budget when it comes to financing inter-county sides' preparations, a county like Wexford must struggle to try to keep a single Senior side inside a budget framework which may stretch to €250,000. This is peanuts in the other counties' eyes, but it still has to come within the financial constraints counties like Wexford face each year.

As Central Council are about to discuss the football championship and what is best for the game and counties, this latest Dublin development is sure to broaden the base for discussion.

As counties like Wexford go into the National League at the end of the month, they must still be looking ahead towards the championship, not just this year but what it holds for the future.

Given the number of meaningless games in provinces last year, alongside Dublin's canter to another Leinster title, the call for a second tier championship is becoming stronger by the week.

Should the G.A.A. hold on to the present championship set-up, spectators will vote more and more with their feet, as they will not accept the expense of attending games where the results are a foregone conclusion. The paying public have no interest in such games. They will demand more as over the past ten years supporters in Leinster have not been treated to a decent provincial final.

The patience of the public has been tested. Central Council has some huge decisions ahead. The time has arrived for a second tier championship, involving 16 counties, with the final given a proper platform and being played as the curtain-raiser to those counties battling it out for Sam Maguire.

Wexford People

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