'There's no magic formula' - Michael Darragh Macauley
Footballer of the Year front-runner Macauley insists Dublin success down to hard work not sponsors' cash
THERE may already be fears that Dublin's new mega-sponsorship deal will create an 'us and them' scenario in Gaelic games but the Sky Blues' midfield superstar Michael Darragh Macauley says money has nothing to do with their success.
"Structures were put in place in Dublin a long time ago, particularly at underage level, and that's what's made the difference and borne the benefits, not some big cash investment," says the Ballyboden St Enda's star and leading contender for Player of the Year.
There is already speculation that Dublin's five-year deal with insurance giants AIG – believed to be worth between €700,000-€800,000 a year – has created such an imbalance in resources that the All-Ireland champions' opponents will not be able to compete with them in coming seasons.
Even GAA president Liam O'Neill has admitted that the deal has the potential to set Dublin further apart and says, "it may well change our thinking on how we finance counties across the board, you know, to equalise things."
But Macauley points out that while people are talking up their big sponsorship windfall, Dublin, unlike many of their opponents, still don't have a centre of excellence.
He believes the Sky Blues' underage structures are most responsible for the sort of dominance that yielded them Leinster senior titles in both hurling and football last summer, as well as a second All-Ireland football title in three years.
"It's just that the structures are right in Dublin football right now," he says. "We've borne the dividends with minor and U-21 All-Irelands first and it's definitely more about structures and hard work.
"Lads are putting in the work all over the park and the structure behind our minor teams is very sophisticated now with strength and conditioning, but that's happening elsewhere too.
"There'll still be at least six teams in with a chance of winning the All-Ireland next year and they won't all have the same cash flow. Those six teams – and a few more dark horses I'm sure – will be in the running because they've have done something right with their structures, it's not all about resources.
"There's no magic formula in Dublin, anything we're doing everyone else is doing too. It was the same last year when everyone was looking for Donegal's secret but it's really just about hard work at the end of the day.
"We're probably in a fortunate position, being in the capital, that we attract a lot of spectators," he admits. "That's probably why the deal came through with AIG, but players don't think about stuff like that."
However, one area he does believe the authorities need to urgently address is the one that affects players in every county – the crowded fixture schedule.
The Football Review Committee's suggestions on solving this thorny issue are imminent and Macauley is a classic case. Since winning his second All-Ireland he has been flat to the boards with his club and his studies, so much so that he had to turn down an invitation to line out for Ireland.
Ballyboden St Enda's were only beaten in the Dublin SFC semi-finals last weekend, when they had to cancel a league game to fit in the fixture, and he's still got some league games to come as well as some new college football commitments. "I would have liked to play Compromise Rules but I just couldn't fit it into my calendar between club and injuries and trying to keep college going," he says.
Macauley is studying to be a primary school teacher and is currently mid-way through a three-week block of teaching practice in Tallaght. With the Froebel College in Blackrock transferring to a new home in NUI Maynooth, he is looking forward to finally playing Sigerson Cup football next year but that will only add to his workload.
"Between Sigerson and Dublin (training) rolling back around as well, it's hard to see where we'll get a break this year. The GAA calendar is a bit of a joke at the moment and everyone kinda knows it," he says.
"There's no magical solution but it does call for a whole restructuring of league and championship to try to accommodate everything. The GAA really should look at giving lads a break, especially lads who are playing college ball as well, this is (happening) all over the country.
"You have to take it as it comes and we probably won't be complaining when it's all over. But it would help if they could find a balance."
Life is still pretty good for the man tipped to beat Stephen Cluxton and Lee Keegan to 2013 Footballer of the Year. He is looking forward to Dublin's function for the presentation of their All-Ireland medals on November 10 and says the greatest thrill is the happiness that an All-Ireland win spreads throughout a county.
"The nicest thing is that joy that comes with the big shiny cup," he quips. "I've seen so many sick people that were just delighted to get their hands on it. We're so thankful to win it and be able to bring it to other people.
"That's a huge part of it, that so many people can take a piece of it for themselves and find happiness in it as well."
Michael Darragh Macauley was speaking at the launch of Parcel Motel's send and return service, a new round-the-clock service for online shoppers. For more information visit parcelmotel.com.