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Monday 24 September 2018

Growing pains could hit Dubs

THIS column gets invited to the most glittering of events - O'Byrne Cup premieres, provincial club ploughing championships, Croke Park briefings explaining the A to Z of the new Black Plague (or even card).

Then, once in a sky blue moon, we inveigle our way into a truly swish affair: namely this week's launch of Dublin GAA's new sponsorship deal with AIG, coupled with the unveiling of the Dubs' latest new jersey, at the suitably well appointed Conrad Hotel.

With Roy Keane back in town, maybe it was just as well that we didn't spot any prawn sandwiches but there were plentiful other delectable morsels to go along with the feast of good news about this exciting new partnership between two massive brands.

And, as GAA brands go, they don't get any bigger.

Afterwards, in his typically affably manner, Dublin chairman Andy Kettle fielded myriad media questions about hurling league structures, the darker shade of blue on that iconic jersey, plans for the Spring Series ... and GAA president Liam O'Neill's recent remark that the association might have to consider ways of "equalising" the disbursement of central funding in the wake of Dublin's new sponsorship deal, reputedly worth between €3.5m and €4m over the next five years.

Not surprisingly, Kettle was staunchly opposed to Dublin receiving less money from central coffers (and in fairness to O'Neill, this is not what he had suggested). He went on to cite a key aspirations of their 2011 'Blue Wave' strategic plan: the recognition of Dublin "as a province from a financial point of view".

 

ROBBING

"Dublin has a huge playing population and it takes a lot of money to run the organisation in Dublin. It would certainly be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said on the vexed topic of equalisation.

All of which sounded eminently logical ... but then, in a rare outbreak of mature reflection, Curve Ball muttered to oneself: "Be careful what you wish for." Here's why ...

Dublin GAA is in rude health right now. This is reflected in a growing bounty of trophies at minor, U21 and senior level; in juvenile participation rates across both codes; in a well functioning development squad system churning our elite teenage performers; and of course its ability to attract sponsors with deep pockets. The future has never looked brighter ... but what if Dublin get too big?

The 'divide Dublin' debate has cropped up several times since this radical SRC proposal was first floated over a decade ago, at a time when the boys in blue were mere pretenders at big ball, never mind small. Even now, while the footballers have rediscovered their All-Ireland mojo, the idea is a complete non-runner. The county board says no; Dublin fans would be aghast at being asked to buy a Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown (or Fingal) jersey tomorrow; even the other 31 counties would scarcely support such a drastic act.

But? What if Dublin GAA were to be accorded provincial status/funding, and its conveyor belt continued to prosper, and it started to penetrate those inner city black-spots, and instead of winning two of the last three All-Ireland SFC titles, they started to claim two out of every three?

How would the rest of the country take that?

At Tuesday's launch, Kettle predicted that if Dublin are "doing everything right", they might win three of the next ten SFC crowns. Even if they were to dominate the landscape, he reiterated his opposition to any split, reminding us that "nobody has put forward the idea of splitting Kilkenny (hurling) into north and south".

Spot on.

But while it's only right that the GAA (at Croker and county board level) does everything to maximise its hold on Dublin's 1.27 million citizens, we shouldn't be blinded to the potential long-term consequences ... an ever stronger Dublin team and a growing clamour to divide and conquer.

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