Wednesday 21 February 2018

Dublin GAA chief slams Nama 'subterfuge' over Spawell sale

Ó Sé and Croke Park also in firing line as Costello launches broadside

Dublin chief executive congratulates Andy McEntee after Ballyboden’s victory against Portlaoise on Sunday
Dublin chief executive congratulates Andy McEntee after Ballyboden’s victory against Portlaoise on Sunday
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Nama engaged in "a piece of subterfuge" to "slip through the noose" over the sale of the Spawell site to Dublin GAA, which had hoped to construct a 25,000-capacity stadium there, Dublin GAA chief executive John Costello has suggested.

In his report to next Monday's Dublin convention, Costello has outlined to clubs how their efforts to secure such a convenient site for the association in the city fell by the wayside.

In a hard-hitting summation, Costello added that he wasn't aware of any clubs who had engaged with the agency that had benefited in any way from the sale of land despite their obligation to contribute to the social and economic development of the State, "a central piece of their mandate" as Costello described it which, he claims, they ignored in relation to Spawell.


"By pushing for maximum commercial returns alone, Nama appears to be working against the interests of our members, the very ones who have already paid dearly for the write-downs on development loans transferred to it," he writes.

"It is well beyond time that Nama is required to put a line entitled 'Social Capital' on its balance sheet and to be held to account in this regard."

Dublin had plans to bridge the capacity gap between Croke Park and Parnell Park at the site, which is just off the M50. Plans, which had the backing of Croke Park, were also in the pipeline to incorporate a Centre of Excellence.

In response, a Nama spokesman said the agency was not the seller, and a receiver appointed was obliged to secure the best price.

"In response to Mr Costello's claims, his understanding of the Nama Act is clearly incorrect," said the spokesman.

"Nama acts on what represents the best outcome for all taxpayers and not specific groups of taxpayers who are interested in soccer, rugby, GAA or other sports.

"Nama has tried to facilitate all sporting organisations where feasible, mainly through Nama debtors agreeing leases with them."

Costello uses his report to fire broadsides in a few directions, with former Kerry footballer Darragh Ó Sé blasted for comments he made during the year about Diarmuid Connolly's temperament, saying Ó Sé "as good as placed a target on the back of one of our most outstanding footballers".

Ó Sé described Connolly as a "bit of scamp", adding that there was still "something to be said for pulling his tail and seeing if he'll hiss back at you."

"Some of these comments were "mean-spirited and the choice of language was somewhat inflammatory" according to Costello.

Croke Park are unlikely to be too enamoured with Costello's comments regarding additional funding, or lack of it, for Dublin's All-Ireland semi-final replay with Mayo, which drew very close to a full house.

Delivered with a touch of humour under the heading 'Bah Humbug' Costello notes that it "would appear Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge has taken up residence off Jones Road this festive season!".

"After a year when, once again, the Dublin footballers proved to be the most successful in the country and attracted the largest crowds to headquarters, we were promised the princely sum of €15,000," he writes.

Maybe we can be thankful for small mercies, as that was a 50pc increase on what we were originally granted. However, the increase was short-lived as the CCCC recouped that exact amount within 48 hours following the 'Donnybrook' in Boston (during the Fenway Classic)!


"We don't feel we have a sense of entitlement but we think that after a campaign that included a near full-house (81,897) for our All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay, the purse strings could have been loosened a little bit at least. We also know that Dublin's commercial value to the central coffers exceeds any other county by a stretch.

"In recent years, counties involved in an All-Ireland final replay have received additional holiday grants of €50,000 and the receipts from the semi-final replay would, I estimate, be comparable."

Curiously, Costello suggests that the player heave against the management in Mayo have had an influence.

"Perhaps the reason for the reduction is that our opponents were having, what you might term 'industrial relations issues' regarding their players/management interface at the end of this summer, that Croke Park were not prepared to grant us any more finances," he writes.

He makes a strong argument about the Sigerson Cup and other third level competitions taking precedence in the recent report produced by director-general Paraic Duffy entitled 'Player Overtraining and Burnout and the GAA Fixtures Calendar'.

Costello argues that players and spectators would opt to keep the U-21 championship instead of the Sigerson Cup and related competitions.

"You are an elite young player, just turned 20, and hoping to stake a claim sooner or later for inclusion on your county's senior football squad. You have an either/or choice: play for your county at U-21 level, or play for your college in the Sigerson Cup. . . but you can't do both," he says.

"My suspicion is that a majority - not all, but still a strong majority - would opt for U-21. Now conduct a straw poll of GAA supporters in your county. What matches are you more interested in attending - your nearest university or college in the higher education championship, or your own county in U-21 combat?

"The answer to this conundrum is far less a suspicion - it's an undeniable fact, just look at the attendances. Far more Gaelic football supporters have a deep attachment to U-21 than to the Sigerson Cup."

To support his view he cites the Roscommon crowds at Dublin's last two All-Ireland finals in the grade and asks whether Westmeath would have won their landmark Leinster title in 2004 had they not won an All-Ireland U-21 title five years previously.

"If something has to give (and evidently a pre-Christmas Sigerson switch is probably not feasible) my argument is that the U-21 inter-county grade is more deserving of preservation, with the Sigerson played in a more condensed period early in new year."

Costello once again advocates the introduction of a second referee, gives qualified support to the International Rules series after its kiss of life over the last two years and rails against disciplinary cases that, he feels, are conducted after 'trial by TV'.

"How many times have we seen disciplinary action taken against a player whose case wasn't highlighted on TV?" he asks. "Rarely, if ever. However, we have seen plenty of example of borderline cases being dissected frame by frame on television, followed by a case taken by CCCC.

"That's particularly the case later in the championships when TV has so much time to dwell on a few games."

Irish Independent

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