Home Features MacKenna On Monday: The People Are Fed Up With Dublin’s Advantage

MacKenna On Monday: The People Are Fed Up With Dublin’s Advantage

There’s a scattering of straws…

Tyrone’s reversion to 15-behind-the-ball counter-attacking football might suddenly be good enough when it was nowhere near good enough a year ago. Kerry’s youth might grow up in a flash when in 2018 they were too green to make even the last four and today are more at Cork’s level.

Thus there’s clutching…

Donegal winning one game barely of note suddenly makes them fit to lace the boots of the greatest team ever in the eyes of some with agendas. Mayo despite a decimation via injuries and age always play to their opponent’s level so Armagh and Galway don’t matter as they’ll up it when it does matter.

Always clutching…

Let’s get real though. This season is about one team.

The summer of the asterisk that those with wares to sell are trying definitely to hide out back. It’s not working though.

Everything in this football sphere does and should come back to Dublin.

* * *

For just a moment, let’s go and visit an alternate universe where what we know doesn’t apply.

Imagine instead that the claims – actually a telling PR effort – about Dublin’s funding are honest and true. This despite the fact that we can prove otherwise. They say that €25-plus million of games development funding since 2004, that included the special €5m from the taxpayer via the Irish Sports Council, haven’t actually made the difference to this team. That leaves two options.

Either all that investment has been wasted, and we can disregard this considering the GAA say they spent it too well. Meaning the only reasonable explanation is that all of it hasn’t actually kicked in yet at senior inter-county level. Here we already have group after group pulling further ahead of the pack due to other advantages they say range from brains the rest don’t possess to the work of volunteers the rest won’t do, from a population that will soon contain a third of the country to the financial benefits of sponsorship when possessing such an unheralded market share. But the real difference maker hasn’t even influenced yet and is fast coming down the tracks.

In such a scenario shouldn’t the association be a little bit worried?

You’d never have guessed as much looking at The Sunday Game special report that preceded their Leinster final humiliation of Meath. The conclusion reached there was that others must try harder. Their hand is in plain sight and yet they insist they aren’t bluffing when calling a pair of twos a full house. It’s as insulting as it is idiotic and still they carry on.

What their choices have done is, of course, best reflected in the championship. There it has become like a kid in Disneyland who during a break in the parade catches a glimpse of Mickey Mouse with his head off smoking a fag and sculling from a hip flask. Afterwards, it’ll still be quite a sight, as this Dublin team absolutely are, but the magic is no longer there.

A few years back the excuses thrown up were frustrating but today it’s a scattergun of lies. Spew out enough dirt and people might lose focus and get tired with the likes of Kevin Cassidy and Tomás Ó Sé in recent days saying they aren’t bored of what’s being done by the GAA, they are merely bored of the reporting of it. That’s how PR allows for abuses of power.

* * *

It’s high time to debunk Dublin. For this nonsense has gone on long enough.

Top of the list of excuses is the line of spin about this being a once-in-a-lifetime team. This is false.

In 2013, the average age of the starting line-up in the All Ireland final was 24.9. By last year it was 26.2, therefore, it’s impossible that it’s a one-off team unless those suggesting as much can show time isn’t linear. From the first of the four in a row to the last, the increase in age has been less than a month. It goes on.

Only seven of the team that won the 2015 final were starting against Meath last day out. Of the 15 that began the 2013 final, just four started this Leinster final and that includes an entire front six when over the years we were told when Alan Brogan retires, when Bernard Brogan can’t get his spot, when Diarmuid Connolly’s genius exits the stage, when Paul Flynn’s brilliance leaves the scene, it’s the end.

Only it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t.

Key components have moved along or been moved along by Jim Gavin’s better judgment and look at the results. No really, look at the results.

In 2013, their average winning margin in Leinster was 13 points per game and across the summer it was 8.7ppg. In 2015, it was 19.7ppg and 11ppg. Come 2016 it was 12ppg and 6.3ppg. By 2017 it was 17.3ppg and 12.5ppg. Last year, it was 20ppg and 12.2ppg. The provincial mean during the four-in-a-row was a scarily high 17.25 yet this year that went higher than that, coming in at 19ppg.

Dublin aren’t getting older but they are winning by more.

Granted, bring this up and there’ll be the usual shifting of the posts to other falsities.

Hurling is mentioned and why if money makes a difference aren’t Dublin All Ireland hurling champions. Yet their improvement from a way lower base in that small-ball sphere has been arguably greater. Indeed since funding they won a first Leinster senior since 1961; won four of their six ever Leinster under-20/21 titles while going to two All Irelands; won six Leinster minor hurling titles including a first since the early 1980s and went to two finals; won their only post-war national senior hurling title in the league; and had a Dalkey club go back-to-back nationally.

This actually is further proof of the financial doping although this will lead to escapism via the blame game.

On that Sunday Game report, both the Leinster Council and Tom Ryan suggested the rest need to learn from Dublin and do more right as if taking the milk and eggs away, leaving a bag of flour, and demanding pancakes. They obviously need the money to do what Dublin have done but that’s not to say they haven’t done much. As an example, look at Kildare who are regularly derided for their efforts yet they’ve just qualified for their sixth provincial minor final in seven years having won three of the last six, have been to four of the last six under-21/20 finals in the east and won the All Ireland in 2018. On top of that their schools have won back-to-back Leinster crowns as well.

At senior though they are destroyed by the neighbours as professional beats amateur. This dispels the Kerry deflection, as well as if winning at 16 automatically makes the best seniors. It doesn’t though as development at that age comes first, and it means that of the 21 Dublin players that played a part in beating Meath, three have All Ireland minor medals. Did it matter to the rest? Not in the slightest.

Dublin , Ireland - 16 July 2017; Dublin manager Jim Gavin during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

When some say that games development makes no difference to senior players, the logic is no different to this. If you win money and it pays off your mortgage, meaning your income can go into having a better lifestyle, the money you won didn’t allow you to have a better lifestyle as it only paid off my mortgage.

It’s absurd.

With Dublin, this development funding has numerous applications and implications. It allows employees to go into schools and clubs in a place with a provincial population, thus widening the base and the height of the pyramid, with both quantity and quality providing a better future outlook; it allows for talent identification within these groups and coaching of these stars as they work their way up into more elite groups with more competition; and crucially it saves Dublin investing these millions upon millions themselves, as that is pumped into areas like the seniors.

These are the realities of their unstoppable system and still some shout it all down.

This would be bad enough coming from supporters.

But it’s what the association has lately been reduced to, and it’s as telling as damning.

“Hi, my name is the GAA and I’ve a problem.” If only. Admittance is the first step.

* * *

The joke elsewhere used to be about the Dublin mafia. These days it’s hard to laugh.

With the tail wagging the dog we aren’t sure who runs the show anymore, but Director General Tom Ryan said in recent days that what’s key is learning what’s successful in Dublin (namely putting money to good use against a massive population) and that should now be applied elsewhere minus the money and the population. He added that he’s not sure what the idea of spitting Dublin would achieve for “us” as the game dies nationwide. Topping it off he continued that any move would be up to Dublin rather than the GAA itself.

The Leinster Council then weighed in with their Dublin-centric take. With €1.3m given to Dublin in this development region last year, they noted the other 11 sides in the province should close the gap with a combined €1.8m. That works out as €163,636 per county. In other words, starting way behind they expect them to catch up by going far, far slower.

John Horan football championship

Most concerning though was the man over the entire association as the president who still refers to Dublin as “we”. He spoke about local councils providing funding for structures that Dublin don’t benefit from. But if he was talking about the Leinster Council, then the only county mentioned directly in their accounts is via The Dublin Coaching Project which comes in at a quarter of a million a year. And if he meant local government then all four authorities in the capital provide massively for GAA via their sports conditioning programmes, leadership training, coach education, coaching, club development as well as provision and keep of pitches. This is nothing new to John Horan though who just a week earlier said their success was down to volunteers, insulting the rest in the process.

When you don’t know what you’re talking about, the reason you pretend to is deflection and noise.

When you do know and are willing to lie, the reason is just the same.

The needs of the entire association appear a distant second in importance to the wants of Dublin.

In doing this they made a major miscalculation though. Everyone has a limit and it’s not just the beatings but the bullshit that is driving people over the edge. Westmeath’s John Connellan and Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien have called out the reality since the Leinster final was whistled to a close, while former Kildare player Eamon Callaghan called for a boycott of the Leinster Championship. His logic is correct in that the GAA wouldn’t listen so you have to make them, and while all the other counties already lose it’s time the GAA should lose out too.

He’s right. And big change is coming via sweeping anger. The GAA can deflect all it wants.

But the majority of the association are quickly learning that you don’t sit at the table when the casino has loaded the die.

About Ewan MacKenna

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