Sunday 26 May 2019

Eugene McGee: GAA can reap rewards of catching dubs' 'blue wave'

THE Dublin County Board last week announced their latest strategic plan, which lists some revolutionary goals for a massive long-term development of the GAA in the city and county, where about one-fifth of Ireland's population resides.

Dublin GAA chiefs have laid out nine strategic aims for the next six years or so, and some of these -- and the manner of their proposed implementation -- will ruffle feathers around the rest of Ireland.

Much is made in the report of the power that the GAA already has in Dublin. No doubt buoyed by this year's senior All-Ireland win, there is a small element of bragging going on, but they are entitled to that after so many barren years. Dublin have only won two All-Irelands in senior and U-21 football in the past 16 years.

The key objectives going forward will see Dublin aiming to win no less than 24 All-Irelands between hurling and football in all grades over the next 15 years.

Dublin want a permanent member on the GAA's most important body, the Management Committee. They also want a similar appointment on the executive of the Leinster Council, because they feel the needs of Dublin require constant attention at these two top decision-making bodies.

Furthermore, the report states that under no circumstances will the county agree to more than one Dublin team competing in major inter-county competitions.

REVENUE

Unsurprisingly, the Dublin County Board want a far greater share of revenue from the matches they are involved in, because of their immense money-generating power.

In 2009, the average gate receipts for a senior championship match in Leinster, other than those involving Dublin, was €107,000. For Dublin games, that figure was €1.2m.

Yet, the modest expenses paid out to Dublin were little more than those paid to other counties.

If Dublin are not in a Leinster football final, the drop in income is about €1m.

It is hard for people in other parts of Ireland to appreciate the enormous figures concerning GAA activities in Dublin. I have often heard of major clubs on both sides of the Liffey fielding up to 70 teams, mostly underage.

One official figure in this report tells us that 24pc of all juvenile teams in Leinster are from Dublin; for adult teams the figure is 18.4pc. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of households in Dublin where children know nothing about Gaelic football or hurling.

Dublin GAA is currently spending about €3m on games development annually, of which about €1.75m comes from outside sources such as Leinster and Central Council and the Irish Sports Council.

This high dependency on outside funding must be a high-risk operation in the present financial climate.

Little wonder, then, that the latest strategic plan involves unleashing 'The Blue Wave', which is essentially about promoting the Dublin GAA brand as the predominant brand in the capital's commercial and social life. In other words, the aim is to make Dublin GAA the major promotional concept in Ireland's capital city.

Unsurprisingly, this proposal, and some stinging attacks on the notion of other sports -- notably Leinster rugby -- appropriating that concept for themselves, has set the scene for potential all-out war on that front in the years ahead.

For too long, major GAA teams have allowed other organisations to steal their financial thunder so maybe the time is right now for Dublin, as All-Ireland champions, to take the bull by the horns and capitalise on their status as the biggest crowd-pullers in Irish sport.

Certainly, without several more million euro a year coming into the Dublin GAA coffers, all the fine plans will fall by the wayside.

There will, of course, be other sections of the GAA who will cast a cold eye on Dublin's plans. Large centres of population like Cork, Limerick, Galway and Belfast will rightly claim that they, too, need financial back-up to boost the game in their catchment areas.

And in Leinster, weaker counties with just 24 clubs and populations of little more than 30,000 will be afraid that they will receive little or no revenue from the Leinster Council if Dublin's funding increases.

Dublin having only one inter-county team is bound to become more of a problem outside Dublin, as the GAA in the county gets stronger.

The notion that Dublin would win one in three football All-Irelands will raise hackles as time goes by.

The nine points in the Dublin strategic plan cover the normal plans for GAA development but with more elaborate planning, greater levels of enforcement and a lot more regionalisation in the county and city. There are still many areas of Dublin where the GAA is practically non-existent.

Grandiose ideas like a new stadium for the county side will have to wait a while.

The new Lansdowne Road, of course, was supposed to be big enough for Gaelic games, but the GAA seems to have fallen asleep on that one. Pity.

No doubt, many Dublin club players will wonder how such elaborate plans for the future can work when the present county board cannot even run the senior football championship on time. That, too, needs to be addressed.

This strategic plan is the correct approach and it is about time Dublin GAA began to think big.

They have had an excellent product in football and now have one in hurling also.

I notice that the members of this latest committee are nearly all comparative newcomers and, presumably, many are young people, which makes them different to most GAA committees.

It's a brave new world now in Dublin GAA, so they are right to go for it. The GAA as a whole will be better if the 'Blue Wave' really is unleashed.

Irish Independent

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