BY 'COIS FARRAIGE'
THE old order changeth, or so they say, but sometimes you feel that it doesn’t change half fast enough in the GAA.
Dublin are still well ahead of the posse on the football field, winning as a habit. Time was when we fully believed that a strong Dublin team was necessary for the good of the GAA. If we want to compete with other codes, which we are doing all the year round whether in a friendly or aggressive manner, it is essential that we do so successfully in our main metropolitan area. So we need a strong GAA and a winning team in Dublin, but when that team starts to become a football monster, devouring all opposition, then maybe it’s time to look again at the situation.
The Leinster football championship has become a non-event in recent years. In fairness, it took a lot of hard work, a lot of good planning and a lot of dedicated GAA people to get Dublin football where it is today. At first we were delighted to see what was happening, but now we wonder has it gone too far?
Not only are Dublin dominating senior football in Leinster, they are also beginning to do the same in underage. It must be truly disheartening for GAA workers in other Leinster counties to see what is happening and to realise, no matter how they work at it, if Dublin keep up their present rate of progress, the Blues will always remain ahead of everybody else.
While the situation in Leinster is almost at crisis point, what really alarms us is the manner in which Dublin footballers are also beginning to dominate the national scene. Another league final, another possible title to back up the Sam Maguire, and the rest of the country hoping somebody – even Kerry – might put a stop to their gallop.
You might well say that it has happened before with other football teams in the past. Mick O’Dwyer’s dream Kerry team dominated football for a decade and we thought we’d never see the end of them. It was Down in the early 1960s, Galway in the mid-60s, Dublin in the 70s, then Meath and Cork, followed by Tyrone and Kerry.
Other teams dominated for a while because they had great teams, simple as that. Dublin now have a great team but it is the work behind the scenes in Dublin that is frightening. Even if the present football team disappears, there are so many winning teams coming through the system that Dublin should never again see a poor day on the football field.
It’s a frightening thought for the future of Gaelic football.
Kilkenny’s domination of the hurling scene for the past 12 years may be due to good planning, but nothing on the same scale as the Dublin model and is due much more to Brian Cody, whose incredible drive for perfection on the pitch has worked its way into all aspects of hurling in Kilkenny.
While Kilkenny’s domination is personality-led, Dublin’s is like a well-oiled machine that will keep on producing and producing. What does this mean for the future of the GAA in general? Imagine an association that is totally dominated by Dublin in football and Kilkenny in hurling, season after season, with only an odd hiccup through luck or injuries.
How boring would that be? How long would the crowds continue to flock to see our championships?
As it is, hurling is the property of, at the very most, eight teams and has been for many years past, but now football is becoming the same narrow field. At present, Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone and Donegal dominate football. Monaghan, Cork or Galway might hit a good day now and again, but ask them to do it three or four times in one season and then season after season and what hope have they?
Is there any way to produce a more level playing field for our inter-county competitions? The gap between the top counties and the rest is actually growing wider because of the facilities and finance being poured into inter-county teams by top counties.
As long as this inequality continues, then the present lop-sided competitions will continue. An equal sharing of funding and facilities, or a ceiling on what can be spent, must be priority number one when it comes to reform.
That can be solved with the right will, but what about the inequality as regards playing numbers? How can you put a county like Leitrim with a population of less than 32,000 on the same level as Dublin, with more than a million people?
As long as Leitrim teams are confined to players from Leitrim clubs, natives of Leitrim or people living in Leitrim, then we will never solve the problem. But what if the Leitrim county team could be made up of players from any club in Ireland who might declare for Leitrim?
Top teams in other codes at all levels are made up of players, not only from all over Ireland but from foreign countries too. Why can’t county teams, at least the bottom tier of counties, be opened up to players irrespective of where they come from?
And what of Dublin today and their domination of Gaelic football? What happened to the suggestion that Dublin should be divided in two for intercounty competition? Is it time to revisit that suggestion seriously and have Dublin North and Dublin South teams?
The growing tendency towards a monopoly situation in our games is not a healthy one, but with Croke Park situated in the heart of Dublin, how long before a serious effort is made to curb the growing power of the Dubs?
– Slán go Fóill