Donegal Should’ve Proposed All Games in Croker

Another Congress, over reactions, hot air and noses out of joint.

Accusations of the GAA hierarchy being out of touch with the grass roots, chances for change being missed. I sound like a broken record rather than a congress report.

Donegal’s nose being out of joint over Dublin having two Coke Park Super-8 games grabbed most of the headlines, why people got so wound up about this, should really be the headline.

The Super-8’s are a three year project. In year one, by the time Dublin got their “home” super-8 game, Dublin were into the semi-finals and Roscommon had been eliminated.

This year Dublin’s scheduled first two super-8 games will take place in Croke Park. Unless God gets off his cloud and strikes vengeance on Croke Park, Dublin will be into the semi-finals of the championship by the third game.

We’ll wait and see what the 2020 schedule brings, but going on 2018 form, do we really want to continue with this super-8 format?

I always believed the Super-8’s would cause some grievance. Long before my pen was for hire, I travelled to Thurles in 2001 for the very first All-Ireland quarter-final.

Kerry v Dublin in a neutral venue, half-way between Dublin and Kerry.

Kerry were Munster champions and met the Dubs had crushed Sligo in a round four qualifier. Yes – Dublin hadn’t even won Leinster that year.

Of the other three quarter-finals, Connacht champions Roscommon lost to Galway in Castlebar, Ulster champions Tyrone lost to Derry in Clones and Leinster champions Meath beat Westmeath in Croke Park.

“They didn’t even get to see Croke Park” a Kerry man told me late in the Thurles afternoon, pointing to the defeats of Roscommon and Tyrone, as he downed his celebratory pint.

The Proposal Donegal should have made was, Play all the super-8’s games in Croke Park. That is until the 2021 championship when the penny will have dropped as the Super-8’s will have seen more dead rubbers than a primary school teacher.

Donegal’s motion stank of noses out of joint and anyway possible to stop the Dubs. As John Costello said, “no one had these issues when we weren’t any good.”

While the GAA have been accused of money grabbing, being out of touch with the grass roots, even though two inter-counties managers have Told me “It’s the Dubs who are keeping us above water.”

As pointed out by the Sunday World’s Sean McGoldrick, the issue with money in the GAA is how it is being distributed.

McGoldrick highlighted that €45,724,643 was handed out to every county in coaching/games development in 2017 & 2018.

The Dubs top the pile, handed €17,916,477 or 39.18% of the total pot. The total figure for the Shannonside Northern Sound region €3,530,946 or 7.72%.

That figure breaks down as Roscommon €771,559, Cavan €750,425, Leitrim €688,521, Monaghan €669,957 and Longford €650,484.

Ok I can hear the arguments, our region has about 274,120 population compared to Dublin’s (to the boundaries) of 1,904,806.

Donegal for their part came in 26th on the list, receiving just €50,000 more than Longford.

As I said previously, In footballing terms, there is one Champions League team in the country, and the rest.

The only way to bridge that gap is new programmes and relevant funding. With the weakest getting funding most.

Clive Woodward managed the funding of the British Olympic team for London 2012. After his departure the British Basketball team, easily Britain’s worst Olympic Sport saw their funding cut.

Interviewed, Woodward simply said, British Basketball needs more funding then all the other sports, not the opposite way round.

It was irresponsible of the Donegal board to push a non-burning issue such as Dublin in Croke Park, ahead of real issues facing grass roots in their own county.

While the GAA offers a lot more democracy than a number of sports bodies, the duty of care that must be up-held by county board officers can easily be lost.

That is the true burden of democracy.

Europa League Games Set For Pearse Park

Speaking of 2001 – the year was a missed opportunity for the GAA, as it was set to be the year that Croke Park would be opened to “Foreign Games”

As the new Croker was taking shape, the Croke Park Finance committee made a startling admission, “the money was running out!”

Just as motions where about to be discussed, in stepped than Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with a hand-out and crisis diverted.

It took the Lansdowne Road redevelopment of 2007-2010, and heated debate before Croke Park’s door was opened to the old enemy.

For me the biggest story to come out of Congress 2019 was their decision by 91% to end the old Rule 42 and open up county games to the foreign code.

There were two pointers toward this is my mind. The announcement in November 2016 of Ireland’s failed rugby world cup bid included eight GAA venues.

The only argument from the Rule 42er’s was the non-inclusion of Semple Stadium in Thurles, as Thurles did not have enough hotels.

The attitude had changed which was further highlighted by the appalling handling of the Liam Miller benefit game.

This is the right move for everyone concerned. Now the question is when will Ulster Rugby travel to Kingspan Breffni or what I look forward to most, the Europa League meeting of Longford Town and Glasgow Celtic in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.