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Friday 21 September 2018

Ryan: 'Money goes into Dub clubs, not the county set-up'

Debut: Tom Ryan attends first media briefing yesterday
Debut: Tom Ryan attends first media briefing yesterday

We live in interesting times. And challenging times, too, for Tom Ryan, who yesterday had his first media briefing since being appointed Director General of the GAA.

Ryan has stepped into Páraic Duffy's old hotseat at a time when Dublin football has never been stronger, but when the rest of Leinster has rarely seemed so relatively weak.

So is it all down to numbers and, more pertinently, funding?

"The first thing I've always said to people about Dublin is that the money is going into clubs in that county, not into the county set-up," stressed the GAA's former director of finance.

"Now, clearly there's a correlation and clearly the fact that county teams are doing well is a function of what the clubs are doing.

"What we always set out to do was to try to augment the funding elsewhere - there was also a bit of rebalancing and we did adjust Dublin a little bit, but the job was always to augment funding elsewhere.

"Belfast is a case in point," he added, alluding to last week's announcement that the GAA is to invest €1.16m over five years to increase participation levels in Ireland's second largest city.

"There are similar ventures going into Meath, Kildare and a number of counties.

Population

"The pressures I mentioned - population drift and so on - are things that we can react to and arm ourselves against, but I'm not sure the extent to which we can influence and change those things.

"The best we can do is to make sure we have well-resourced clubs at both ends of the spectrum, in terms of numbers and geographically, to cater for the playing population in all parts of the country."

As a Carlow native, Ryan is well placed to answer if he ever envisages the amalgamation of smaller counties.

"No, I can't," he said. "Can you? Counties are one of the cornerstones of the association and I don't see the attraction for somebody from a small county looking at a team that they're only a small constituent part of - your own county is your own county.

"If we ever got to that stage we'd have a very different GAA, and it wouldn't have the same appeal to anyone around the table, or to me."

Myriad topical issues were on yesterday's agenda, from the GPA (and its fundraising activities in the States) to the CPA and resolving the GAA's club fixtures problem.

Debut

But as Ryan gears up for his debut summer as Árd Stiúrthòir - one that will see major structural change to the football and hurling championships - he intimated that football's new Super 8s format is probably just a stepping stone.

There remains a strong resistance to a two-tier championship in football.

"It's interesting, because in hurling that has kind of been accepted and people are happy with their place in the hurling pecking order," Ryan noted. "Football-wise, it just seems to be more problematic.

"I think the shape the championships eventually take, it mightn't be where we are now. I see it very much as an evolution.

"We're about to embark on three years of trial or experimentation - at the end of that we'll probably know where we need to go next. I don't think it's the finished article."

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