Tuesday 21 May 2019

Alan Brogan: Dublin worked slavishly hard for their All-Ireland successes and it's an insult to attribute it to money

Read Alan Brogan every week in The Herald

Stephen Cluxton of Dublin following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton of Dublin following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Brian Fenton of Dublin celebrates after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Alan Brogan

The rhetoric in certain areas over the last few days that money is the overriding factor in Dublin’s recent success is fundamentally flawed.

I’m aware of the high funding levels to the Dublin County Board and I’m not ignorant about Dublin’s ability to generate significant commercial income.

I was part of the initial tranche of Games Promotions Officers employed in Dublin and very clearly the brief was to promote Gaelic games and increase participation amongst children in schools.

Where the argument collapses is how it applies to the Dublin senior football team’s success.

There were 260 days between January 1, 2011 and September 18 in 2011, the day we landed Sam Maguire after 16 years.

We either met or trained collectively on 180 occasions in that time.

That’s aside from gym work and the stuff we were all doing on our own.

There was nothing remotely high-spec or expensive about where we trained or what he did.

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We just put in the hours and went like maniacs after our goal.

The seven or eight of us that had been at it for nearly a decade at that stage, we’d struggled and we’d suffered but we broke our b****cks in 2010 and 2011 to get over the line and paved the road for all who have come since.

That had precisely nothing to do with finance.

Tell me how government or central GAA funding to the Dublin County Board makes Stephen Cluxton the footballer he is?

I’ve seen Stephen spend countless hours – literally countless – practicing his kicking.

Just him, a load of balls and a field for him to develop and perfect his incredible range of kick-outs.

Before everyone else arrives and after everyone else has gone home and on days when there’s no collective training.

Any goalkeeper in the country could be at that.

But not every one has the same awesome drive as Stephen Cluxton.

Dublin are-well funded for the purposes of increasing the spread and participation of Gaelic games at grassroots level to as many areas and as many people in the country’s biggest population centre as possible.

If you think that would be better spent elsewhere, fine.

But I can’t accept that money is the overriding factor, I’ve seen it firsthand on the inside how the success has been delivered.

It cost nothing for the hours my dad spent with me, Bernard and Paul out on the field throwing the ball back to our left foot to get us to improve our kicking off our weak side.

It cost nothing for the time myself, Bernard and Jason Sherlock spent on Wednesday nights up in Westmanstown honing our shooting or in more recent years, when Ciarán Kilkenny joined us.

It cost nothing then for Mick Galvin to come up, give us a few pointers on technique and spend his evening throwing the balls back to us.

It cost nothing for my wife to move out of our home with my kids for three nights before the All-Ireland final in 2015 so I could get proper rest.

We worked slavishly hard to win those All-Irelands and it’s an insult to the guys that played, the management teams and the players support networks to attribute our success to money.

It’s also just plainly untrue.

Where did the money benefit us?


People have the wrong idea about St Clare’s.

Pat Gilroy came along in 2009, saw we needed a training base, raised funds and along with the county board, built ‘the Bunker’ in DCU’s sports grounds.

All that’s in St Clare’s is one dressing-room, an ice bath, a kitchen and a whiteboard.

It’s not a patch on Tyrone’s facility in Garvaghey, Kildare’s in Hawkfield or Kerry’s new €7m development in Currans.

Not a patch.

The team does their winter training up in Innisfails Ground off the Malahide Road.

With all due respect to Innisfails, the pitch isn’t great up there in the winter. It’s soft and awkward to run on and the dressing rooms must be 20 years old at this stage.

For three months of the year, those players are up there, tucked away off the M50 going through the slog.

It’s not nearly as glamorous as some make out.

People have an obsession about the size of Dublin’s backroom team but other than Bryan Cullen and maybe the physios – who put in huge hours during the day – they’re unpaid volunteers.

It’s the same with most inter-county set-ups.

Every county team has a strength and conditioning coach and most of them get paid.

But so is the strength and conditioning coach with that county’s hurlers and their minors and their Under-21s.

Bryan oversees all of those teams in Dublin – in both codes.

Employing him was a wise move by Dublin GAA because they’re getting consistency and continuity of their athletic development work through the grades.

My clubmate Seaghan Kearney used to do the stats for Jim in his first couple of years.

He’d go home after a championship match and work through the night so we’d have the numbers early on a Monday morning.

I remember having a problem with my studs before a match in 2010 and our kitman, Davy Hendrix called up to my house on the Saturday afternoon before the game to fix them for me.

Both of them giving freely of their time for the greater cause.

The stuff that people don’t see is the stuff that wins All-Irelands.

Not the money that’s used to promote and run the games in clubs around the county.

Yes, there may be more commercial opportunities for Dublin players because of the team’s success (when I started playing for Dublin, there were more Kerry players with endorsement deals than Dubs because they were winning all around them) but everyone has a job or is in college.

Nobody gets their dinners delivered to them and the mileage is less than players get in other counties get because generally speaking, they don’t travel as far.

It hasn’t been spoken about very much but Jim and Declan Darcy went straight from 10 or 11-year inter-county careers into managing the Under-21s in their first season.

They’ve been at it practically ever since. A relentless dedication to Dublin GAA.

I know Jim has gone over to Arsenal when he was learning his trade to see how they train. He has engaged basketball coaches to try and understand the blanket defence.

He hasn’t been afraid to try new ideas or play young and unproven players and he has established an amazing culture of excellence in which everyone seems to thrive.

A constant evolution and desire to keep improving to give young Dublin footballers the opportunity to be the best they can be.

That’s the product of people and effort. Not money.

No-one’s doubting that the Dublin County Board are a well-run operation and that the players are well looked-after but there are other counties who have spent big money on new stadiums or centres of excellence or in some cases, have paid through the nose for outside managers or trainers for their senior teams.

Pat Gilroy, Jim Gavin and Dessie Farrell have devoted huge time and energy into Dublin football in the past decade, the results of which are being seen now, and none of them have taken home a cent.

If the ‘money = success’ equation was factual, Dublin’s minor team would be cleaning up.

Instead, they’ve only won two of the last six Leinster titles and one All-Ireland in 34 years.

The same with the county’s hurlers.

So the money argument doesn’t stack up.

But it’s easy fodder for those who want to demean Dublin’s achievements.

And listen, I get it.

People don’t like it when any one team dominates a sporting competition and plenty of people in this country very clearly don’t like it when that team is Dublin and the domination has reached the extremes of this decade.

But they shouldn’t presume what they don’t know.

It’s a been a long and winding road to here. Just ask Stephen Cluxton, if you get a chance.

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