Monday 11 December 2017

Magee wants to see capital investment in all counties

Wicklow players (from left) Stephen Kelly, Ross O’Brien and John McGrath at the announcement that Joule is to sponsor the county’s new jersey at the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry yesterday Picture: SPORTSFILE
Wicklow players (from left) Stephen Kelly, Ross O’Brien and John McGrath at the announcement that Joule is to sponsor the county’s new jersey at the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry yesterday Picture: SPORTSFILE

The fact that Dublin's All-Ireland-winning squad were in Carton House last Friday and Saturday on a training weekend while a "third-string' selection cruised to O'Byrne Cup success the following day tells Wicklow boss Johnny Magee all he needs to know about football's uneven distribution of wealth.

While Jim Gavin has 50-plus high-calibre players chomping at the bit to represent the treble-seeking Dubs, Magee often has a "hard sell" with some U-21 players asking 'what's the point?' when requested to represent their county.

It's a question asked by many weaker county players throughout the country with Wicklow's high turnover resulting in Magee estimating the average age has shifted "from 30 to 21" in his three years at the helm.

But with Wicklow GAA's Centre of Excellence up and running in Rathdrum and Joule heating solutions coming on board as major sponsors, as well as claiming naming rights of 'Joule Park, Aughrim', Magee feels it's "going in the right direction".

The former Dublin defender describes how social media makes young footballers aware of how other counties are treating their players with the burden now on "trying to give them what all the best players are getting".

That comes at a cost, however, and therein lies one of Magee's biggest gripes. Having more money coming in the door only levels the playing field with the likes of the Dubs to a small degree and they're still "chasing".

"Is it going to happen overnight? No," Magee proclaims. "My whole aim at the start was to put Wicklow in a better position than when I first took over. I don't mind getting beaten by a better footballing team on the day, I don't mind that at all.

"Or if they've a better game-plan or tactics. What I do have an issue with is if they blow you out of the water because of sheer physicality and fitness and strength. And is that down to that they're able to pay the right people?

"Full-time strength and conditioning coach, high performance coach, full-time nutritionist, a proper chef that's there who prepares their meals for the next days, would that benefit us? Yes it would, but we don't have the exposure. We're so far behind."


GPS units providing live feeds from the players to the sidelines have become the norm for the GAA's biggest financial hitters but at approximately €30,000, weaker counties like Wicklow are often priced out of the market and fall further behind the chasing pack.

According to Dublin GAA's website, they have 12 official partners but Wicklow's world, and that of most other counties, is radically far removed from that with Magee feeling "Croke Park and the GAA need to get more of a stronger hold on how they divide it (wealth) up, it's a huge problem.

"If you score 2-3 for Wicklow and you're telling me, 'Johnny, I'm out on my feet,' I'd be kicking you back onto the field saying, 'Stay on there and get another 1-2' whereas if a Dublin or Kerry player scores 2-3 and he's gone from green to amber to red and he's fatiguing, he's whipped off straight away for injury prevention," he said.

"And he's being replaced by a player who mightn't be as good quality-wise but with regards to fitness and strength he'll go in and do a job.

"You're trying every inch and every centimetre but also it shows the lads, 'We have this now'. It's down to resources and looking after players."

Fixtures is another area Magee feels players are horribly let down in and based on recent performances the Garden County, who have Seanie Furlong and Tommy Kelly back on board, will only play nine competitive games from February until their summer exit.

"The best competition in the GAA is the league. You have seven games, over a short period of time, it's bang, bang, bang and then we're not out for six weeks," he says.

"History tells you it's two games for Wicklow, that's it then. I don't see the lads then until next November. The other point is why can Bruce Springsteen play in Croke Park more times than one of my players? My players have never played there."

Irish Independent

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