Wednesday 20 February 2019

Duffy: Nothing to gain in splitting Dublin into two

Director General defends Capital natives' right to protect their identity and cheer on a united county while reminding 'splitters' of how the GAA struggled here in recent times

GAA Director General Páraic Duffy is opposed to splitting Dublin into two teams. Photo: Sportsfile
GAA Director General Páraic Duffy is opposed to splitting Dublin into two teams. Photo: Sportsfile

Arguably, it's the stand-out single line from Pádraic Duffy's 11th and final annual report as the GAA's Árd Stiúrthóir.

"There is all to lose in doing so, and nothing to gain."

The subject is the slowly amplifying talk of splitting Dublin, an initial murmur loudening exponentially after each of their recent All-Ireland Senior Football wins.

Among the 20,000 or so words in his swansong, Duffy is as definitive about the perils, the unfairness and the potential negative consequences - as he sees them - of such a partition as any other topic.

By way of explaining its prominence among the myriad GAA issues covered in his report, as released to the public yesterday, Duffy said he felt it "important to comment" as the theme had "taken up so much newspaper space".

Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy (left) and Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail during the GAA Director General’s Annual Report Launch at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy (left) and Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail during the GAA Director General’s Annual Report Launch at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

"I just felt I wanted to put my tuppence ha'penny worth in on what I think is best for the GAA.

"I look at all these things as what I think is best for the Association and I don't think it's in the interests of the GAA to contemplate splitting up Dublin," Duffy added while also insisting several times that he "respected other people's right to have a different view" on it.


"I don't for the life of me see what the advantages are but I certainly see what the disadvantages are," he said in a round of media questioning in Croke Park yesterday, just an hour after attending journalists were presented with the document.

Notably, the question of central funding is not addressed by Duffy in the chapter pertaining to Dublin although the capital's degree of financial backing from Croke Park will again come under scrutiny next Wednesday when the GAA's annual accounts are presented to the media.

More broadly on this issue however, Duffy explained: "I accept that Dublin have a greater access to funding than anyone else but that's the way that it is.

"That's the way that we are. What's the alternative? Have 32 counties with equal size of population?

"We can't do that. We are what we are.

"The GAA is about county,"he went on, "it's about club, it's about where you're from and you know Dublin have the same rights to that kind of identity as Monaghan or Leitrim or Longford or anybody else."

It's a theme Dublin CEO John Costello again felt compelled to touch upon in his most recent and perhaps most colourful report to his county committee last month.

"Sense of place and identity is one of the core principles of Gaelic games," Costello wrote, "Dublin is a united county."

On this, Duffy was squarely in agreement with a man who has been whispered as a potential successor.

"One of the reasons why Dublin footballers generate support is that they give Dubliners a unique opportunity to celebrate their proud Dublin identity," the Monaghan native outlines in the report.

"While there may well be a mild and humorous northside/southside divide in Dublin (which, of course, does not include the greater Dublin western suburbs), this geographical affiliation comes nowhere near matching the passionate identification of all Dubliners with their team."

Other than depriving Dublin natives the opportunity to support their county in its intact current form, Duffy also identified the dangers of removing or diluting the culture of such a distinctive team for the wider GAA community.

"One is led to wonder if the 'divide Dublin' proponents have given any thought to what the GAA would lose if Dublin were to be split," as he put it.

"Have they given any thought of what Dublin would lose?

"And is the sight of the Dublin supporters on Hill 16 not one of the great spectacles in Irish sport?

"And are we not all looking forward to seeing Dublin supporters in their thousands heading out of the city to follow their team, which the championship format from 2018 will allow?

"So, neither on competitiveness ground, nor on account of the unfairness of depriving Dubliners of the pleasure of expressing their local and historical identity through the GAA (as every other GAA supporter is allowed to do), should we countenance the splitting up for Dublin."

There is almost a tone of weariness from Duffy in writing about the Dublin issue.

"Once again an outstanding victory by Dublin in the All-Ireland football championship triggered a call from some commentators from the division of Dublin into two or three separate units," he noted, before providing some recent historical context.

Indeed when Duffy took over as the GAA's chief executive, Dublin had endured 12 years without so much as an appearance in an All-Ireland final.

"It is only a generation ago that the fear being expressed was that the GAA in our capital city was dying in the face of the threat from soccer and rugby.


"How the mantra has changed…and how memories are short," he noted.

"There is no doubt that Dublin enjoys advantages over every other county. It has the largest population and can access greater financial resources through sponsorship.

"But resources in terms of finance or population are no guarantee of All-Ireland success, as Dublin discovered between 1983 and 2011 when it won just one All-Ireland Senior Football title."

Duffy also points to the gossamer-thin margins of victory with which Dublin have won four of their five All-Irelands this decade as a sign that they aren't nearly as superior as some claim.

Recalling the "single point in four finals (one after a replay) and a three-point victory over Kerry in 2015," that "hardly constitutes evidence of a county steam rolling over all opposition, or proof of the need to divide the county because it is vastly superior to the rest and must be broken up into two or three division for inter-county competition.

"The history of our games and of sport in general, tells us that Dublin won't win forever," Duffy predicts before adding: "The main reason for Dublin's current success is that they have an outstanding group of players and an exceptional team management."

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