John Costello says lack of land availability will be an issue for Dublin GAA in years ahead

Dublin have been granted planning permission for a Centre of Excellence on the 23-acre site of the old Hollystown Golf Club

John Costello says the lack of land availability for the development of playing facilities in the capital will be a critical issue for Dublin GAA in the years ahead.

Dublin have been granted planning permission, subject to appeal, for a Centre of Excellence on the 23-acre site of the old Hollystown Golf Club, which will include four floodlit pitches – one all-weather and three sand-based, dressingrooms, an indoor training facility, a gym, meeting rooms, a hurling wall and a walking/running trail.

Dublin GAA have received a 10-year permit to build at the site, but appeals to An Bord Pleanála are possible until December 14th.

Either way, writing in his annual report, Dublin chief executive Costello says the issue of facilities will remain a problem for all sporting organisations in the capital in the future.


“Dublin GAA continues to grapple with the critical issue of the lack of availability of land for the provision of suitable facilities for the playing of our games at all levels and standards for both male and female players,” he stated.

“Basically, there is very little available land and if suitable land comes on the market, the price is usually prohibitive. The constant – and even rising housing demand – means that this situation is likely to continue and possibly worsen.

“It makes me think about the long-term effect on the city and its people. As we build higher and higher, and in increasing density, are we doing so in a sustainable manner? Are we catering for the needs of the people who will live in these new dwellings. Are we providing enough amenity space? Enough social facilities? Enough green spaces for their children to participate in organised competitive field sports?

“Are we looking after, in that context, their physical and mental wellbeing in the longer term? I have said before that our cities cannot become soulless places of grey concrete and high-rise buildings. We need to provide meaningful recreational space and we need to be mindful of how that space is used.

“The pursuit of higher residential densities within a compact growth model, with a particular concentration on brownfield infill development schemes in some locations, presents particular challenges in relation to the provision of suitable facilities for organised competitive field sports.”

In a wide-ranging report, Costello also expresses his frustration with funding for coaching, the regrading of minor level and why he believes RTÉ must raise their standards with regards their GAA coverage.

“Even before Sky’s exit it was becoming abundantly clear that RTÉ needed to up its game,” said Costello.

“Before you misconstrue this as a clarion call to axe every second Sunday Game pundit (the ones who haven’t already jumped ship into inter-county management!) we should clarify that we mean this in a strategic sense.

“Okay, there are only so many live matches you can show on terrestrial TV, not just because the contract says so but because of time limitations. But when it came to its Sunday Game highlights show, it was trying to do too much in too little time ... and the end product suffered.”

On the matter of funding for coaching, Costello has concerns over the policy of directing the resources over a broad age demographic and would prefer to see the investment made primarily in younger players, male and female.

“I am, therefore, surprised and disappointed to be honest, that the new GAA model for funding for coaching and games development is based on registered male players from the age of four to 37-years-of-age,” stated Costello.

“This is a worrying shift in association policy that funding is now being targeted at the older age groups.

“Without wishing to sound glib, does anyone think that investing in coaching for any 30-something is the best way of spending finances? Will our Games Promotion Officer’s be expected to arrange a Go Games programme for Over-35′s?

“Are we to develop Tag Camán and Tag Peil programmes? Do we really need to even include 23-year-olds when we are allocating scarce funding resources? Perhaps more importantly, in this four-year funding model, the absence of any grant for coaching females is alarming when one of the current chief aims of the association, under the leadership of former president Mary McAleese, is to integrate GAA, LGFA and Camogie at all levels.

“I fear that this model, in trying to please or maybe appease, has overextended itself and lost sight of the original intention of this vital funding stream

“The new funding model – and the surreptitious shift in association policy – will result in an annual reduction of €447,978 in coaching funding to Dublin. The consequences of this rationalisation will result in the dismantling of the integrated coaching scheme in Dublin, with resulting job losses and redundancies and the sale of assets.”

The debate over the minor age limit continues but Costello is quite clear in where he stands on the conundrum – the grade needs to go back to Under-18.

“Experimentation is always worthwhile in any walk of life but sometimes you have to put your hand up and admit that it didn’t work – and so it is, in my opinion, with the Under-17 and Under-19 grades at club level,” he said.

“I welcome the recent decision of the taskforce to decouple these grades from their inter-county equivalent and give counties the autonomy to return to an Under-18 competition at club level if they wish to do so, arguably this should also be examined at inter-county level also.

“What players want is meaningful competitions and, unfortunately, this has not proven to be the case – so it’s time to call a halt.”

The 2022 Dublin GAA convention will take place next Monday, December 12th.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times