Saturday 18 November 2017

Alan Brogan: I'd think twice if I was a fan too

Dub star and GAA chief offer different views on recent landslide trend, as McGuinness warns of a watershed

Dublin’s Alan Brogan (left) puts pressure on Fermanagh’s James McMahon in last Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.
Dublin’s Alan Brogan (left) puts pressure on Fermanagh’s James McMahon in last Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.
Dublin’s Alan Brogan, Consular Wu of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and Mayo’s Cora Staunton at the launch of the 20th annual Asian Gaelic Games, sponsored by FEXCO. The games will take place on October 24-25 in Shanghai, China.

Alan Brogan is part of what he now regards as the strongest Dublin squad he has ever played on.

"Sure I can't get into the team!" he says, only half in jest.

But if Brogan were now a fan, would he keep trundling to Croke Park in the near-certain anticipation of another double-digit massacre?

Probably not.

"People will stop coming," he suggested. "I'm not sure if I'd be too interested to go and watch matches where Dublin are winning by 25 points, or somebody else is winning by 25 points.

"So certainly it's something that has to be looked at - and I would imagine probably sooner rather than later, because the guys in these (weaker) counties just won't want to put in that effort that needs to be put in to really compete at the top level."


Brogan was speaking at yesterday's launch of the Asian Gaelic Games, sponsored by FEXCO and scheduled for Shanghai in October. But events closer to home were preoccupying minds.

The 2011 Footballer of the Year had just been asked if he agreed with Jim McGuinness's claim that, if what happened last weekend recurs for the next five years, then Sunday's crowd of nearly 60,000 will become 30,000 and dwindle from there.

The former Donegal manager made this provocative point in his weekly newspaper column, part of an ominous thesis on where football is headed now that "the gap between the elite counties and the rest is becoming a chasm".

McGuinness believes last weekend (Tyrone winning by seven points, Donegal by ten, Kerry by 27 and Dublin by eight) should be viewed as a "watershed moment" for the football championship.

Páraic Duffy, though, is having none of it.

"I think we've lost our perspective in relation to this whole issue about competitions and teams and so on," the GAA's director-general declared at the same launch.

"In a couple of months' time the Rugby World Cup takes place. Uruguay are in it and Canada and the US ... have they any chance of winning the Rugby World Cup? Any chance? Will there be hammerings in it? Will there be one-sided games in it? Of course there will.

"But I don't see any clamour in the Irish papers, people saying 'Keep these teams out of the Rugby World Cup, they shouldn't be in it'.

"The Premiership starts next weekend - I'll tell you now the top four. I'm no expert in soccer but everyone knows who the top four will be. I don't hear any clamour about the teams that can't compete at the bottom, the Bournemouths and so on.

"We need to get a sense of perspective ... every team doesn't have to be in the competition just to win it. Because if that's the basis, we'll end up with a competition with four and six teams in every competition.

"I have great respect for Jim McGuinness and his articles actually are very good reading ... today's article is a very interesting article. Do I agree with his point? No, because what he's saying is you put in more and more resources. A county like Leitrim or Longford or Carlow or Monaghan will never have the resources to put into the game, the same as a county with a bigger population."

Brogan offered a different take on the recent lopsided trend, one that has seen two 27-point defeats (for Longford against Dublin, Kildare against Kerry) and a 26-point mauling (for Sligo against Mayo); while even one-time minnows Tipp have won twice by over 20 points. At least Kildare against Dublin kept it under the new 20-point watershed - just.

"I don't think it's a good thing to see teams coming to Croke Park and losing by 20 or 25 points. I haven't given much thought to how I'd structure a second-tier competition or whether it's worthwhile having a second competition. But, like, it hasn't always been like this," Brogan reminded.


"We used to play in the Leinster championship against the likes of Laois and Westmeath, and we had some great battles against those teams ... and obviously Meath beat us in 2010. So it seems only really to be in the last four or five years, and maybe it's a product of Dublin being so well organised at underage level," he added.

"Maybe it's a case that as the stronger teams are getting stronger, the so-called weaker teams maybe don't want to put in the same effort because they're not getting rewards out of it. But it's hard for me to say because I'm on this side of the fence."

The above trend, he surmised, is one good reason to consider a second-tier competition "where teams come up and go down. That would make it very competitive too; that if you finish in the top two or top three, you get up to the first tier. And the bottom three drop down. But I haven't given enough thought to have a real view on how it would be structured."

However, Duffy maintained that the recent scale of destruction was not unprecedented.

The margins are bigger, he said, partly because "since the rules were changed the scoring totals are far, far higher. Kildare's hammering last week has nothing got to do with what Jim McGuinness said ... Kildare's population is over 200,000 people; in Kildare's case, they need to look at themselves and see why they got beaten by that amount. Leave them out of this equation.


"The likes of the smaller counties, it's a different story. It's one of resources and we should accept that," he continued.

On the subject of SFC reform, Duffy cited a recent GPA survey of players from the ten less successful counties.

"The single most favoured option was leave things as they are. It was about 50pc. And then the rest of them suggested different things. I don't know if you saw Seán Quigley's tweet on Sunday night in response to Ciarán Whelan - he said you play for days like that.

"Of course there's a legitimate debate but I think it's gone over the top.

"We've asked for suggestions for the championship format, we're open to suggestions. I presume we'll come forward with some sort of tweaking or an alternative, but there's no guarantee it'll be accepted because if you start excluding people all over the place - the bottom eight, the bottom 12 - just watch the reaction you get from the players, never mind the counties."

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