Questioning Dublin’s advantage

 

Sir, – Seán Moran (“Dublin have always had advantages – what’s new?”, Sport, June 26th) finished his insightful article about the GAA’s historically ambivalent approach to Dublin’s larger population with the sentence, “On the broader, more critical matter of population shift and rural flight, answers won’t come as easily”.

It is a throwaway line but it exposes a number of common misconceptions and prejudices, both specific to GAA and in Irish life in general.

For the record, official census figures show that Ireland’s rural population increased by 37 per cent between 1996 and 2016. Commentators (and editorial guidelines) should avoid terms like rural flight or rural depopulation, lest they reinforce a popular misconception that these things are actually happening when they are not, and have not happened for a long time. “Fake news” as a certain American might say.

For comparison, Dublin’s population increase over the same period was 27 per cent, and Dublin’s rate of increase made it the 19th ranked county, trailing well behind rural counties like Carlow (+36 per cent), Westmeath (+40 per cent) and Laois (+60 per cent). In absolute rather than relative terms Dublin’s increase was the greatest but the rates show clearly that this did not happen at the expense of other counties – another common notion that serious commentators should avoid.

If, as many Dublin detractors suggest, county size is the determining factor in GAA championship success then the questions must be asked why is Dublin not dominating at hurling as well as football (despite being home to the champion hurling club), why has the next largest county, Cork, not featured in the closing stages of the football championship for nearly a decade, and why are the counties that enjoyed the biggest relative increases nationally (Meath +77 per cent and Kildare +67 per cent) unable to pose a significant challenge either in Leinster or to counties from other provinces in subsequent qualifiers?

Only 15 players can take to the field. At some point the current generation of Dublin footballers will fade and other counties will take their place on final day. Perhaps it will only be then that their true excellence will really be appreciated. – Yours, etc,

JOHN THOMPSON,

Phibsboro, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Richard Barton (“Time to split Dublin?”, June 26th) brings Dionysian thinking to the Letters page regarding the ongoing widespread whinge elsewhere prompted by the magnificent success of the Dublin football team in recent times. Chaos would surely follow if the GAA panders to the emotions and instincts of what is nothing other than a gaggle of bad losers.

It is probably of no use to point out that the Munster Championship is by far more predictable with Kerry having won 81 titles compared to Dublin’s paltry 58. If Dublin is to be split to remedy a perceived problem with the Leinster Championship, what is to be done with Kerry? Quartered perhaps?

Let’s stick with the calm logic and prudence of Apollo and set about urging all teams to be the best they can be and enjoy themselves while entertaining the populace. It is a sport after all. – Yours, etc,

JIM O’SULLIVAN,

Rathedmond, Sligo.

Sir, – As someone who grew up watching Leinster Championship games in a cauldron type atmosphere in Croke Park, it’s sad to see the zombie championship it has become after Dublin eased to a ninth title in a row.

It needs to be acknowledged that this Dublin team is on a completely different level to what we have seen before in great teams in terms of fitness and score-taking ability. They are good people off the field, set good example to kids and are incredible footballers.

But given the financial background to this success a few facts need to be set out and compared between Dublin and its rivals. The sums around games development grants Dublin have received from GAA headquarters since the mid-Noughties are published as amounting to €18 million while the next biggest sum is Cork at €1.7 million. This does not include the €5 million Bertie Ahern’s government ringfenced for Dublin over five years from the middle to the end of the last decade.

This money is, of course, to aid the development of GAA among the youth in clubs and schools in the capital and does not go directly to the preparation of the senior teams. It is of great value to clubs since these paid coaches are available in great numbers in Dublin (61 games development staff in Dublin as of 2015. Cork, by comparison, have seven). These coaches are available to train youngsters and the children’s parents would pay club membership for their children and bring huge revenue to the clubs. This revenue which amounts to over a million euro every year filters back into the Dublin GAA’s accounts via the compulsory fees the clubs have to pay to Dublin GAA for the service of these coaches.

The most startling thing, when looking at Dublin’s accounts, is that they do so little fundraising. Fundraising is normally the life blood of county boards and how they pay the high cost of running their senior county teams. In the annual Dublin accounts available on the St Sylvester’s club’s website, they fundraised €107,000 across 2015 and 2016. Mayo by comparison fundraised €1.761 million over 2016-2017.

It is galling for other counties to see that a huge and successful county that has such a great number of GAA members and supporters can be bankrolled by the governing body while making no effort to fundraise in the same way their rivals wouldn’t function without.

Could the GAA spend more money on supporting and improving rival counties’ coaching infrastructures if they asked Dublin to make more effort to raise their own income? The thought does not seem to have occurred to the GAA yet given their public utterances? – Yours, etc,

EOIN DOHERTY,

Naas, Co Kildare.