John Costello calls reaction to Dublin’s success ‘puerile’
Chief executive’s report to the county convention suggests trialling a second referee
John Costello and Jim Gavin after this year’s All-Ireland SFC final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dublin GAA chief executive John Costello has described as “puerile” some of the critical reaction to the county’s third consecutive All-Ireland football title - particularly the suggestion Dublin should be split in two for football purposes.
In his report to next Monday’s county convention, Costello says: “A quick spin through this type of ‘commentary’ post this year’s decider against Mayo goes something like this - full-time whistle sounds; Stephen Cluxton lifts Sam; split Dublin in two, actually make that four; these conceited Dubs might be liked by some but they’ll never be loved; these unpatriotic Dubs they should be forced to surrender the GPO!
“Some of the ‘rhetoric’ was in fact so puerile it was like a collaboration between Roger Hargreaves, the author of the Mr Men series of books, and the writers of that timeless classic, The Magic Roundabout!
“There used by a perennial column written in some publication about the dangers of the ‘Cult of the Manager’ maybe some commentators should examine the ‘Cult of Me’ which seems very much in vogue with some of them. For example have a go at the Dubs, then sit back, get invited as a paid guest onto various radio shows etc - kerching, cha-ching, cha-ching, kerching!
“We’ve been down this road before with regard to the splitting of Dublin and I don’t wish to copy and paste old convention reports here. Suffice to say that sense of place and identity is one of the core principles of Gaelic games. Dublin is a united county.
“However, this theme was given a fresh lick of paint this summer when it was implied that Dublin GAA was ‘short-changing’ young players in the capital and that it would be in the greater good if Dublin were split, for their own sake, if you wish. I presume that was an attempt at engineering dissent and not really a genuine, heartfelt plea for the ‘boys on the hill’ to be thrown a Dublin jersey?”
Costello continues: “Our senior football manager, Jim Gavin, was the target on several occasions during the summer of plenty of hostility - one paper declaring mid-summer that Jim “was losing it” and that it was time for Jim to be moved on as “Dublin now need a true leader”. Jim’s ‘crime’ was standing up for one of his players, Diarmuid Connolly (who knows he crossed the line against Carlow) in the face so much rage and counter-rage.
“Then, after the All-Ireland final, Jim was again held up to much ridicule and inaccurate reporting. The atmospheres in the rivals’ dressingrooms after an All-Ireland final could not be any more polar. One utter delirium, the other utter dejection.
“In response to ‘Mr Flip-Flop’, neither his real name nor a real Mr Men character, obviously these Dublin players will never be loved the length and breadth of the country, but they are liked, admired and respected by plenty outside the county. In fact, in terms of within the county, I don’t think, in my lifetime association with Dublin, that I have ever witnessed as strong a connection between our supporters and the current team and vice versa.”
Costello also defends some of the so-called “advantages” that Dublin are perceived to have over other counties: “Some of the commentary around Dublin’s perceived ‘advantages’ - such as population and finance - is both repetitive and often, quite frankly, misinformed.
“Myth 1: Our senior teams have meals delivered to their homes on a daily basis or ever in fact. UNTRUE. Myth 2: Our senior teams are given five-star, ‘all-expenses paid’ treatment. UNTRUE.”
He adds: “Broadening out the debate, as I have often said the battle for young hearts and minds is ongoing - and tougher than ever. My belief is that it is tougher in Dublin than in any other county in Ireland. In rural areas, the local GAA club is often the very heart beat of the parish. Playing underage for the local club is often a rite of passage for young people. This is less so in the larger suburban areas of Dublin.
“Other sports in the capital are well established, well organised and often directly in competition with our games. Add in the many other non-sporting distractions of a large city and you have a real challenge to attract young players. It may surprise some but the penetration of the GAA in certain areas of Dublin remains relatively low. This too remains an ever present challenge.”
Elsewhere, Costello makes the suggestion it may be time to trial two referees in senior inter-county matches: “Have you ever witnessed a more relentless, turbo-charged, utterly exhausting All-Ireland final than this year’s latest battle of inches between Dublin and Mayo? And that was just watching the game, never mind playing it!
“When the dust had settled on the history-making outcome, on the various controversies, on the flashpoints spotted, another thought sprung to mind. Or rather, a recurring thought came back stronger than ever. Surely the time is nigh to introduce two referees at inter-county level - both football and hurling?
“I appreciate that this is no easy aspiration, given the ongoing struggle to produce a sufficient number of highly-trained referees who can be trusted with inter-county games. Now, in one fell swoop, you’ll need twice as many ..… surely that’s bound to prove a recruitment and logistical nightmare?
“I still maintain that it’s worthy of serious consideration, perhaps initially for the early seasons competitions and if successful there, then at National League level. The pressure placed on GAA referees has always been high - too high perhaps?
He also believes the new ‘Super-8’ round of the football championship, although untested, should be given a proper and fair trial: “But let’s not rush to judgement. The Super 8s are here for a three-year trial period so please give them a chance to sink or swim. Other voices have offered the hope/belief that they could be the gateway to further reform and a new SFC structure that provides all counties - not just the heavy-hitters - with a tangible prize to aim for.”