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Kettle boils over Croker proposal to cut funding for Dublin GAA coaches

THE Dublin county board has come out fighting against Croke Park proposals to reduce the level of central funding it receives towards coaching and games development.

Dublin chairman Andy Kettle has responded to what he terms "the Sword of Damocles" hanging over Donnycarney HQ by vigorously defending the essential contribution of their 50-plus full-time coaches.

He warned there was a risk of redundancies if the recommended cutbacks materialise. He predicted that curtailing Dublin's games development budget would have a hugely negative impact on moves to establish clubs in newer suburbs where there is no GAA presence.

He also dismissed the argument that, unless there is some level of funding equalisation to help smaller counties, the disparity between Dublin football and the rest will widen further. "If we don't continue to do that we're doing and go backwards, you have the possibility of an area with a fifth of the population of the country becoming a wasteland for GAA," Kettle told The Herald in an exclusive interview.

The proposed cuts come against a backdrop of mounting debate about a Dublin football dynasty, epitomised this week by Donegal manager Jim McGuinness comparing their current position to that of Chelsea under Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

But Kettle insists that, while Dublin have got their underage structures in order over the past decade, they didn't "invent the wheel" but rather "tricked around" with it.

Moreover, he argues, there is no guarantee they will keep producing the same number of quality players who have helped Dublin to two of the last three All-Ireland SFC titles; three of the last five U21 football crowns and, in 2012, a first All-Ireland MFC in 28 years.

HACKLES

Dublin hackles were raised last weekend when a report from the National Financial Management Committee, outlining the recommended allocation of funds for next year, was unveiled to county board secretaries and treasurers.

"Two things took Dublin by surprise," said Kettle, who wasn't in attendance but has been briefed. "No counties got [sufficient] prior notice - the recommendations were issued at lunchtime on Friday for a Saturday meeting - so that they could contribute constructively to a discussion. Secondly, on looking at the recommendations since, because it was difficult to pick everything out at the time, Dublin seem to be the only county facing a reduction in funding for the next year."

Precise details of the proposed cut to Dublin's coaching and games budget have yet to be spelled out, but Kettle confirmed that the €11,000 allocation for Fingal hurling, from the National Hurling League fund, is to be "wiped out".

"Why should we drop Fingal hurling - which was set up at the request of Croke Park - and it's costing us approximately €60,000 a year," he pointed out. "The withdrawal of that €11,000 would mean probably the withdrawal of the Fingal county team, which would have a serious impact on the promotion of hurling in that area."

The bigger picture - how the GAA maintains a level inter-county playing field while the bigger counties, most notably Dublin, have access to far more lucrative sponsorship deals - may well be driving this latest proposal. However, Kettle warned that any such move could have negative ramifications.

REDUNDANCIES

"The most serious action that we would have to look at is how we can keep over 50 coaches employed," he admitted. "That's the most serious thing, which obviously has implications for redundancies; it has implications again for a wider financial hit, because these people are entitled to due process."

He said Dublin CEO John Costello spoke "as strongly as he could in the limited time that he had to prepare against the cutting of the budget. But my understanding now is that these things will be firmed up and will go through the standard procedure - Coiste Bainisti (Management Committee) and Ard Comhairle (Central Council)."

Dublin, though will keep on fighting. "Absolutely - and for justifiable reasons. We feel that we have a very, very strong case," Kettle declared, adding that Dublin's share of Sports Council funding was "the elephant in the room as such. Our understanding is we went directly to the Sports Council, we got a million more than the GAA were going to get anyway, and that was ring-fenced for Dublin."

He concluded: "We don't think our success on the playing fields, at the moment, indicates that Dublin are strong in GAA terms. In fact the opposite can be true; in large areas of the county the GAA does not seem to exist. Money does not always buy success.

"For 16 years Dublin had no senior football All-Ireland. Over 20 years from the previous minor All-Ireland. We haven't won a hurling All-Ireland in living memory. What we, as a county board, are trying to do is rectify these situations. And we've been reasonably successful so far - not hugely successful."


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