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Thursday 12 December 2019

Frank Roche: 'Mayo's cash spat proves money talks'

Chasing All-Irelands is an expensive business

BIG BUCKS: Mayo enjoyed a €60,000 training camp at Rocklands, New York. Photo: Sportsfile
BIG BUCKS: Mayo enjoyed a €60,000 training camp at Rocklands, New York. Photo: Sportsfile

As the funding row on Planet Mayo GAA became very public this week, one line in a lengthy statement from the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation jumped from the page.

A line that offers a very graphic reminder that winning All-Irelands - or even trying, as Mayo have with such consistent but ultimately doomed fervour this decade - is a very expensive business.

We are told the foundation "paid for the Mayo senior team's training camp at Rocklands, New York at a cost of €60,000."

Sixty grand: Mayo had someone willing to foot the bill. But would every other Connacht hopeful travelling to the Big Apple, and hoping to squeeze in a vital training camp too?

The issue of funding inter-county success (or failure) has never been so topical. That's partly because Dublin have just won the five-in-a-row and not everyone else is willing to salute their greatness without broadcasting their grievances about capital funding.

It's a crudely simplistic argument where multiple reasons explain Dublin's unprecedented success. But one thing is clear: they should never have a problem funding training camps or ensuring that players receive the most professional supports to maximise performance.

That's because the Dublin GAA brand is so strong as to ensure there will always be an AIG, or some similar corporate, in the sponsorship queue.

Other counties are blessed in other ways. The Kerry Group has been synonymous with Kerry since the birth of GAA jersey sponsorship almost three decades ago. Likewise, you can't separate that Black-and-Amber Kilkenny jersey from Glanbia.

More recent heavyweight backers include Teneo, whose partnership with Tipperary has helped to deliver Liam MacCarthy at the first attempt. Here was a case of a long-time friendship - between Teneo founder Declan Kelly and his fellow Portroe man Liam Sheedy - proving the perfect match.

After Tipp's All-Ireland triumph, The Sunday Times reported that "between the sponsorship deal and ancillary fundraising it is estimated that anything up to €350,000 has been generated for the team."

Sheedy brought Cairbre Ó Cairealláin on board to lead Tipp's strength and conditioning programme; the Antrim native actually set up home in The Ragg, near Thurles, so that he'd be available for one-on-one sessions. These are the inches that make all the difference. Look how John O'Dwyer was physically transformed this season.

By the same token, Limerick hurling has been blessed by the financial muscle of JP McManus.

Some counties are lucky to have generous, GAA-mad benefactors on their doorsteps. Others need to go chasing dollars or sterling from the great diaspora overseas.

And then others, the weaker counties with smaller playing populations and far less financial heft, are left behind.

That is the way it will remain. You won't win All-Irelands without hugely gifted and driven players, as Dublin and Tipperary have proven in recent weeks. And many times, it's true, even wealthy backers can't work the oracle.

But if you are to seriously chase an All-Ireland, and not just dream of it, most agree that money talks like never before.

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