Monday 10 December 2018

Colm Keys: 'Dubs' biggest problem is finding land, not players'

 

Capital gains: Dublin GAA chief executive John Costello (right) and chairman Seán Shanley know how difficult it is for clubs to find land for pitches
Capital gains: Dublin GAA chief executive John Costello (right) and chairman Seán Shanley know how difficult it is for clubs to find land for pitches
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Every year around this time John Costello's annual report to the Dublin convention drops with the usual mix of humorous barbs, sideswipes at the county's critics but also much thought-provoking discussion about matters relating to national rather than local issues.

At almost any other time of the year the Dublin chief executive manages to maintain a discreet presence so this has become his platform.

This year's 'state of the union' (capital edition) was delivered a little earlier than usual but wrapped within 16,500-plus words was the usual coteries of headings that go further and for longer than any of his peers at this time of year.

More and more Costello has found a need to bat back at critics of Dublin's privileges and the perception that their recent run of success has been built on significant State and Association funding.

The team and manager's personality have also been defended fiercely on this annual occasion.

Puerile

In 2017, there was his reference to "puerile rhetoric" and the "ridicule and inaccurate reporting" he claimed was directed towards Jim Gavin for his "delay" in arriving at the post-match press conference.

This year it's the idea that Dublin are drawing criticism for being "robots" and "automatons" (not sure where that one has emanated from) that draws Costello's satirical side as he asks whether Gavin would be better off if he "should run up and down the sideline during games gesturing to the crowd or throwing water bottles around to show his 'passion'."

But beyond this engagement there is always much food for thought in what Costello has to say from game-related issues such as the use of video referees to the deployment of a second referee.

One of the recurring themes, however, is Dublin's GAA great infrastructure challenge and it's a topic, naturally, revisited this year.

"Dublin cannot be allowed to become a city of concrete with no outlet for our youth to play sport and engage in healthy activities," he writes.

"I have previously mentioned the huge pressure that GAA clubs here face in terms of accommodating their growing membership and it is not a problem that is going to go away.

"Proper planning and provision is vital if Dublin is not to become a place to just work and sleep."

That problem is reflected in Kilmacud Crokes' current 'challenge' to prepare for Sunday's Leinster club final against Mullinalaghta, the classic David v Goliath meeting between a club with 4,800 members and one with just 155. Yet despite that resource of people, Crokes' senior team still have to make their way out to Bray to train for 9pm these nights - a similar journey Cuala were regularly making as they prepared for back-to-back All-Ireland titles - because of the absence of adequate floodlit facilities within their reach or access to anything closer.

It's not a huge inconvenience obviously but is reflective of the problems when a club of its size can't accommodate such a facility in its own catchment area.

'Proper planning and provision is vital if Dublin is not to become a place to just work and sleep'

There's an element of unintended consequence for Dublin with the success of their underage programmes, fuelled by that near €20 million investment bearing such fruit with, according to Costello, numbers participating in Go Games increasing by almost 100 per cent in hurling and 58 per cent in football over the last decade, now delivering 11,500 annual fixtures between U-8 and U-12.

Dublin GAA has much more going for it than any other county, the best set of Gaelic footballers to assemble at any one time in the history of the GAA, the biggest population, the best commercial deals following that, and more than generous funding for coaching and games development.

However, a scarcity of land for the GAA in the county represents a challenge no resource or even financing can quickly fix.

Like the city itself, its GAA units are running out of affordable space to cater for their numbers.

Costello on . . .

Dublin as 'robots'

"Perhaps Jim Gavin should run up and down the sideline during games gesturing to the crowd or throwing water bottles around to show his 'passion' or a senior-ranking county board official should run to Hill 16 after some victory and throw their tie into the famous terrace?"

Experimental Rules

"I thought it would be more interesting if a 13-a-side game was trialled without any alterations to the playing rules to see if it would alleviate some of the gridlock."

Sorting out club season

"The inter-county game is the dynamo from which clubs are assisted in terms of club grants etc., so we need to be mindful of the importance of our inter-county games in our blueprint, our vision for the future."

'Super Eights'

"You might accuse me of bias when I resist the argument that Croke Park cannot be considered an appropriate venue for hosting any neutral quarter-final fixture involving Dublin."

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