Saturday 19 October 2019

Donnchadh Boyle: 'Time for the whingeing around Dublin to stop - on both sides of the fence'

Philly McMahon: Never afraid to call it as he sees it
Philly McMahon: Never afraid to call it as he sees it
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Interviews with established county players can often be a box-ticking exercise.

In particular, the consistent excellence of the Dublin footballers means there's not many new places to bring a discussion. A fatigue can set in on both sides of the dictaphone.

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But Philly McMahon has been around the block. He's been a high-profile GAA figure for the better part of a decade. If there's something he feels needs to be said, he won't shy away from it. And so on Monday when it came to the advantages Dublin enjoy, McMahon called it as he saw it.

"There's a successful team; there's always people out there that will look at ways to try and change the success of whoever is successful. And I think it sends the wrong message out for the next generation. So what we're saying is, 'Right, if we have a team that's successful, let's complain. Let's complain about the rules, let's complain about the money, let's complain about the population' ... Instead of saying, 'Let's actually beat them when they have all that.' And that needs to be the message."

Those comments will elicit various responses from different parts of the GAA, but in terms of looking to "change the success" of Dublin, McMahon is a little one-eyed. As tired and as jaundiced as they are at this point, some of the issues around Dublin GAA are genuine and in need of discussion.

The funding levels, regardless of whether they are broken down based on registered clubs or players or any other metric, indicate that Dublin are benefiting handsomely from central funds. The organisation's top brass have admitted they would be looking at the hows and whys of that arrangement.

The population argument should be dropped because simply there's nothing the GAA can do about it. It's an advantage Dublin have always enjoyed and always will and one counties across the country enjoy over each other.

As well as that, the success of Leitrim in gaining promotion and the consistent competitiveness of Monaghan over the past few years shows what can be done when scant resources in terms of playing personnel are put to the best use.

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The issue around the use of Croke Park is trickier, though it's sometimes forgotten that there are all sorts of anomalies in the GAA in terms of home advantage. For instance, there's a decent chance Tipp could play an All-Ireland SHC quarter-final in Semple Stadium, or even an All-Ireland U-21 final.

Before the back door was introduced in both codes, the Leinster champions enjoyed a significant advantage over the rest as there was a good chance they'd have played at HQ at least a couple of times before an All-Ireland semi-final.

However, McMahon can be challenged on another count. It's not just a 'take Dublin down because they are successful' attitude. Being in the spotlight, and all the positive and negative things that brings, is an unavoidable by-product of success.

But there's no shadowy conspiracy working against Dublin as McMahon inferred and Dublin CEO John Costello stated at Congress. The decision of the GAA's main decision-making body on the Donegal motion is proof of that. Donegal's idea was based on fairness.

They might have brought a better proposal, worded in a different way, but there's no denying there's an inherent advantage for the Dubs in playing in Croke Park twice in 'Super 8s' games.

Costello's comments in Wexford suggested that Dublin felt hard done by when the motion made it to the clár. Costello's job is to lobby on behalf of Dublin GAA and he's very good at it but they are far from the victims here.

But Congress, with all its back-channelling and horse-trading, decided that wasn't worth changing.

None of this denigrates Dublin's achievements. Their status as one of the all-time great teams is already assured and no one will be surprised if they go on a collect another handful of All-Irelands over the next few years. We are watching a team build an indelible legacy.

But McMahon was completely right on one thing. It's time to stop the complaining - on both sides of the fence. There's no giant plot to persecute the Dubs and, outside of rebalancing of funds, no grounds for the rest to complain about Dublin's advantages given the decision at Congress, as well as the natural and unavoidable advantages that being in the capital brings. The summer is coming into view.

Whatever happens it's going to be a football championship that will go down in history. It's time to enjoy the journey.

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