FOUR all-Ireland winning managers yesterday threw their weight behind the Yes campaign in the fiscal treaty referendum.
Kilkenny's Brian Cody, Dublin football manager Pat Gilroy, Cork football manager Conor Counihan and former Wexford hurling manager Liam Griffin are all patrons of the 'Alliance for Ireland' group.
The new group is headed up by veteran pro-Europe campaigners Pat Cox and Brendan Halligan, and other "prominent citizens".
The group launched its campaign in Dublin yesterday and it is also supported by groups like IBEC, the employers' organisation, the Irish Farmers' Association and Chambers Ireland. Former union boss Blair Horan is also involved, as is former GAA president Christy Cooney and rugby star Denis Hickie.
Although none of the sporting figures were at the launch yesterday, Mr Halligan said they may be rolled out to support the campaign in the coming weeks.
"Personalities play a huge role and we will be adding to that list of patrons, particularly moving into the sporting and cultural arenas," he said.
"Can I just emphasise the GAA involvement there, the great organisation in this country upon whom so much rests and who everybody trusts, and I'm delighted so many individuals have come forward," he added.
The group will spend around €10,000 during the campaign, but is also seeking donations.
Mr Cox is a former president of the European Parliament and ex-general secretary of the now defunct Progressive Democrats. He also lost out to Gay Mitchell in the contest for the Fine Gael nomination for last year's presidential election, and he is now campaign director for the Alliance for Europe.
Mr Cox said: "Certainty to where Ireland stands in the European project will add further to the very hard-earned credibility that goes with our budget-adjustment programme."
Mr Halligan, a former general secretary of the Labour Party, is the chairman of the group and defended the Government's campaign. He said he was a veteran of 15 referenda, and claimed he had "never seen so much energy being put into a campaign by government parties as on this occasion".
"I think they are highly motivated," he added. "I would have to say also Fianna Fail are playing their part."
Mr Cox said there was an "enormous determination" from civil society "not to see the political class isolated on this as a politician question only".
"For sure this has high political stakes and there is much riding on it for the Government and its future credibility, there is no doubt about that. But it's a bigger issue than for politicians alone," he added.
He also said they chose this weekend to launch their campaign because "this is the time when the pace is going to pick up and where the argument will be more deeply engaged by both media and public".