Home Features MacKenna On Monday: An Open Letter To The Culchies Of The GAA World

MacKenna On Monday: An Open Letter To The Culchies Of The GAA World

There’s something cringe-worthy about those open letters you see from journalists in sport. As if the target audience should fall under the spell of their wisdom and bow way down to their thinking on a subject. On occasion though, they are called for and this is one of those cases.

Apologies in advance, but needs must.

After all, here we are with August hurtling down upon us and the latter stages of the championship speeding over the horizon and still, there’s so little talk about the football. Instead, there’s been no more than a chorus of whinge and whine from those who clearly hate Dublin.

It leaves us with no other option.

An open letter to the culchies of the GAA world…

cork dublin

* * *

The saying goes that a healthy mind does not speak ill of others. There’s a lot out there in the wasteland beyond the M50 that would do well to take that in before a long and a hard and a deep stare into the mirror. As they say in Stillorgan, haters gonna be hating. As they say on the northside, you’re nothing but a negative and bitter shower of begrudgers.

This is all true. Verified, indisputable fact. John Horan said as much. Tommy Lyons too.

These are two great men. The latter only in recent days.

Saturday once more proved that the narrative around Dublin is false. Cork came and they saw the greatest team ever to play the game since the last Dublin team of about three years ago – but keep in mind there is no conveyor belt and this is a once-in-a-lifetime group of stars. What people forget is that the cost and the coddle of the city reduce life expectancy. That Cork failed to conquer doesn’t matter, for in being lucky to concede just the 5-18 and lose by just the 13 points, they gave a blueprint of how to brutally take down the champs.

The rest would do well to watch how they fearlessly went about their business for this was quite a spectacle and what the game can be at its zenith. Just the 50-thousand empty seats and a sea of blue packed into a half-closed Hill, jeering wides and frees all evening. Flavour country. Of course, there would have been more there but to be a Dublin fan is an expensive pastime, considering it’s been 15 years since they had a home game in the championship.

If anything, that disgrace is an advantage to other teams who don’t want fairness, rather they live to travel to Croke Park to beat Dublin as anywhere else wouldn’t be the same.

Con O’Callaghan

You could see that with Cork at the weekend. A modern-day classic. Titanic. Epic. And then there was Jack McCaffrey. As one hugely impartial observer expressed while tagging Dublin supporter sites for clicks and love afterwards;

“Raw, uncontainable pace, electrifying, speed of light, athletic surges, a rhythmic, fast-twitch, Lear Jet chorus, continue to stand alone as summer’s most intoxicating spectacle… A human sonic-boom, Clontarf’s first verified cheetah, blazes across Croke Park like the highest-octane, insuppressible, wind-assisted wildfire.”

To think that so many in the association cannot just sit back and cheer on the wonder of him and his teammates. For shame.

Their ire has blinkered them and it’s causing them to miss a trick as they could learn from Dublin. Instead though, as John Costello put it when the notion of neutral venues was raised, it’s divisiveness and mean-spiritedness. That’s a man that knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Horan must be thrilled to be working away under his stewardship.

Ciaran Kilkenny and Tomas Clancy 13/7/2019

What’s been key to this Dublin team is the volunteerism that others lack the intelligence and will to replicate. That volunteerism really kicked in yet again down the stretch as they surged past a jaded group whose own volunteerism was shown up in their lazy, tired legs.

And that’s where this all starts. Sure the big days on the big stage are great but they are forged on the cold, wet summer nights in training camps in South Africa and in the humble and basic surrounds of DCU’s centre of excellence. To create that model took foresight and a plan that no one else could dream up but now Dublin have done that for the rest. You think others would be thankful for this as they now know how to join the dots.

Step One – they merely need to go to Croke Park and get so much money thrown into a system that even if large chunks of it are wasted, it cannot possibly fail.

Step Two – they need to grow their population to around 1.3m, meaning an animal-like providing senior players in about 20 years.

Step Three – more and better volunteerism from the farmyards to the hedge schools.

Paul Mannion 13/7/2019

If they can do that they’ll be quickly going places as they don’t even face the challenges that the capital has long fought so bravely against. Like other sports which everyone knows don’t exist anywhere else. For instance, in the big smoke, there’s Shamrock Rovers. And Leinster, which is purely a Dublin thing. There’s also a sea-swimming club out near the Poolbeg Lighthouse. Gaelic games are in a constant battle for the hearts and minds of their children.

Then there are the immigrants which give unfair ammunition to those looking to graffiti over Dublin’s masterpiece. As everyone also knows, they cannot play football or hurling, and they don’t travel past the Red Cow to dilute the potential playing population. That Dublin have achieved in spite of this is incredible, and that’s after so many struggles for so long.

Remember that the GAA was in the gutter there when the association decided to lend a helping hand and a blank cheque. They’d only won one of the three Leinster finals they’d contested in a row to start the century; in 2001 they suffered the ignominy of losing an All Ireland quarter-final by a goal to Kerry; a year later and there was the humiliation of losing a semi-final to the eventual winners by a point; and by the time the money came about in 2004 it had been nine years worth of famine since they won the lot. Big men were wasting away. Vinnie Murphy had gone into starvation mode. On top of that, they had only captured three of the previous five Leinster minor titles and the previous two Leinster under-21 crowns. Something had to change, meaning a bleak future. This wasn’t good enough. Desperate times.

Brian Howard

Besides, as is generally accepted as a point of uncontestable reality, the GAA needs Dublin.

So what changed since those dark days when they could merely compete to a high level?

Well, there was the investment that helped the sport compete with sea swimming, but widening the base and expert coaching and savings that allowed for cash to be pumped into other elite areas does not a point kick. Do you really think paying an army of strength and conditioning experts and the endless gifts to players that free up both the body and the mind for extra training in a better environment made Jack McCaffrey that fast and gave the others such superior endurance? Absolutely not. That was all down to volunteerism. We are tired of stressing this. People suggesting that the entire multi-billion dollar global sports coaching and psychology industry that is employed by every single pro team on the planet actually works are just being negative.

Brian Fenton and Liam O’Donovan

Anyway, this team will come and go and we’ll be left looking back on a golden age that so many will have let pass them by as they ranted and raved. Then they’ll regret not enjoying the moment as, while Dublin may have just about survived the retirement of Alan Brogan, the moving on of Paul Flynn, age catching up with Bernard Brogan, and Diarmuid Connolly trying to flee, when Stephen Cluxton decides to hang up his boots you can be sure they won’t have his guidance to score 5-18 and win as nip-and-tuck an encounter by 13 points.
To cheaply try tell a different story is, as one modern-day philosopher put it, nothing more arseboxing.

As in football, the words of those backing them also suggest a superior, Aryan-like race.

About Ewan MacKenna

One of the country's top sports journalists, and a recipient of Irish Sports Journalist of the Year.