O’Rourke says splitting Dublin into at least two teams ‘a no-brainer’
‘ We’re not Real Madrid or Manchester United where the big should dominate all the time’
Dublin’s Philip McMahon, Dean Rock and Ciarán Kilkenny celebrate the three-in-a-row after the victory over Mayo in the All-Ireland final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
He may be in a minority of one but Colm O’Rourke, the Meath legend and analyst, has reiterated that splitting Dublin into at least two football teams is a no-brainer.
O’Rourke has been beating this drum for several years and made the claim again immediately after Dublin’s three-in-a-row success last month.
It was Dublin’s fifth All-Ireland win since 2011 and with the U-21 crown also residing in the capital, as well as the O’Byrne Cup, won with a development squad, the sense of Dublin versus the rest is strong.
O’Rourke, a two-time All-Ireland winner with Meath, claimed that it has got to the point where strong club players in Dublin now have no chance of making it at county level.
He admitted that Dublin supporters he has encountered are totally against his idea but claimed they are blinded by ‘winning, winning, winning’ and merely retaining the Sam Maguire Cup.
The secondary school principal at St Pat’s College, Navan said the bigger picture is that good young players need to be afforded realistic opportunities to experience county football.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said O’Rourke at the draw for the Top Oil Leinster Schools ‘A’ football championship. “People say I’m looking on it as penalising Dublin but if you’re involved in the GAA you should be looking at providing opportunities, giving more opportunities for young players to play with Dublin.
“So if Dublin had three teams, I would say that would be about right, to give all the young fellas that stood on Hill 16 for the All-Ireland final some hope of some day playing for Dublin, rather than the present situation where the team is the absolute cream of a huge pot.
“Anybody from Dublin that I would talk to would be absolutely opposed to any idea of it. But I think they’re caught in the mentality of winning, winning, winning. Winning, to me, is not the only thing that’s important.
“I think it’s about giving young fellas an opportunity. Fellas get an opportunity to play for Meath or Leitrim because they’re of a fairly decent standard – being of a reasonably decent standard in Dublin gives you no chance of getting near the team.
“Ambition is great in a young fella and I don’t know how you could match the ambition in Dublin with the reality of trying to get near the current team.”
The Dublin GAA brand is a powerful one and is worth millions to the county and the GAA generally. O’Rourke said he wouldn’t be afraid to smash that brand by creating three new separate teams in the capital.
“I’d go back to what I always say; we’re different, we’re not a commercial enterprise,” he said. “The GAA is based on something as simple as community involvement. A lot of people, I think, are clouding their judgement on this with comparisons to rugby and soccer and other professional sports.
“The GAA model is one of involvement, of opportunity, of participation, as distinct from complete domination. We’re not Real Madrid or Manchester United where the big should dominate all the time. We have to have a different model to that.”
Seán Cavanagh, who captained Tyrone in their heavy All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin, said afterwards that Dublin could go on to win at least five-in-a-row and, possibly, eight out of 10 All-Irelands.
“I think maybe that [eight] is a bit too much but they will go on winning indefinitely, there is no doubt about that,” predicted O’Rourke.
The draw for the 2018 football championships will be made on October 19th and Jim Bolger, the Leinster Council chairman, said it’s likely Dublin will play their opening game away from Croke Park again.
Dublin went 10 years without playing a championship game at a provincial venue before beginning their 2016 campaign at Nowlan Park and they travelled to Portlaoise last summer to play Carlow.
“It’s not written in stone but it has worked well the last two years,” said Bolger, acknowledging that taking Dublin to provincial venues means significantly lower gate receipts.
“We have taken a hit financially but it’s not all about finances. We like to do what we think is the right thing for everybody, for all our patrons and Dublin have been keen to come out of Croke Park also.
“It is a hit in the pocket but it can’t be all about that either.”