Sunday 18 March 2018

Pat Spillane - What if Kerry organised a testimonial dinner to keep David Clifford in the Kingdom?

Read Pat Spillane every week in the Sunday World

Pat Spillane thinks there would be blue murder if a testimonial dinner was held for David Clifford
Pat Spillane thinks there would be blue murder if a testimonial dinner was held for David Clifford

Pat Spillane

Imagine if the GAA in Kerry organised a testimonial dinner for David Clifford, the star minor who scored 4-4 in last month’s All-Ireland final.

The money raised for the 18-year-old would be the same as the wages he might get for the next three or four years as a young pro in Aussie Rules. So, no need to go to Hawthorn or Geelong, David.

There would be blue murder. And not just Sky Blue from Dublin; every other county would be screaming ‘professionalism’ and ‘cute hoors’ at Kerry and you could be sure Croke Park would be down on the dinner like a ton of bricks.

But soon we are about to have a testimonial dinner for a great player at the end of his career, not the beginning.

Now that the GAA’s Championship season is done and dusted for 2017, the question I am most frequently asked these days is ‘what do you think of Colm Cooper’s testimonial dinner?’

First off, I wish the Gooch well with this ground-breaking move for a Gaelic footballer and I hope he makes a bucketful of money out of it.

Would I have liked someone to have organised something for me like that when I retired? No.

Actually, come to think of it, the only acknowledgment I got on retiring after 17 years of Kerry football was a phone call from a fella in Castle Island thanking me for all I had done for the Green and Gold.

There was no letter thanking me from the Kerry County Board or from the team management. There was no presentation from the club; indeed, nothing from anyone.

It’s very different nowadays, with social media going into overdrive on the end of a career for even the most modest inter-county player.

In my days, the last game in the county colours was greeted with a shrug of the shoulder and “sure didn’t you get enough out of the game anyway”. How could you argue with that?

Anyway, I didn’t want any fuss. I played for Templenoe and for Kerry for the love of the game, for enjoyment and because I wanted to.

So fair play to the Gooch and his backers for coming up with the idea of a testimonial dinner. Colm was always one step ahead of the opposition on the pitch and it appears he’s no different off the field.

It would appear that he got in the announcement before one or more of his colleagues were about to strike with a testimonial night of their own. I believe a hotel had already been booked in Killarney for the gig.

Now, however, given the backlash the Gooch’s dinner has engendered — and by the way, I’ve yet to meet a Kerry person who agrees with it — I’ve a feeling than no further testimonials will get off the ground.

Now if ALL the money were going to charity, and a player were using his name to raise a few bob for worthy causes, then fine. Bring in a firm of auditors to dish out the money and then tell everyone who had got what. Do it that way and I’d have no issue.

But then I don’t like testimonial dinners at all — full stop. I don’t like well-paid professionals getting them. I mean Brian O’Driscoll had two: one in Dublin and one in London.

He hardly needed the money and, of course, all Irish sporting professionals who are  Irish-based, at the end of their careers, get a rebate of some of the tax they have paid during their professional lives. Rugby players, golfers, jockeys etc, all getting an extra lump sum that comes out of the pot of money to which all taxpayers contribute.

All in all, I’ve a very bad feeling about this sort of stuff for GAA players. I believe it opens a can of worms that could one day crawl all over the association.

The lack of transparency in how much money he is giving to the two designated charities does Colm no favours.

It’s good to see that some of the proceeds are going to Dr Crokes, the club who nurtured him and to the Kerry County Board. The funds to the board may help pay for floodlighting and to fit out the gym at their new Centre of Excellence at Currans?

But announcing that news on ‘The Late, Late Show’ last Friday smacked of closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. Why wasn’t that said at the very start?

Yes, the Gooch was one of the greatest to ever wear the Green and Gold, but was he any more deserving of this than the Ó Sé brothers, Paul Galvin, Declan O’Sullivan and a few other warriors he played with.

Or what about other great footballers who didn’t win four All-Ireland medals like Matty Forde (Wexford), John Galvin (Limerick), Niall McNamee (Offaly) or Benny Coulter (Down)? That’s the problem, you see: who deserves a night like this more than the next man?

Could you imagine how much money a gig like this could raise for Sean Cavanagh of Tyrone? Or, God help us, what could Dublin’s fund-raising arm do when Stephen Cluxton finally takes off his gloves?

As the former union leader Joe O’Toole once famously remarked about benchmarking, “It would be like having your own ATM.”

One day, this dinner may be seen as the day the GAA let something slip. Trying to stop it now is going to be like trying to stuff the toothpaste back into the tube.

The association has been caught on the hop. Despite what they are saying in public, I know a lot of people in the High Command in Croker at not at all happy with this.

Of course, there’s not a dicky-bird from the Gaelic Players Assocation. I wonder why?

And spare me all the rubbish that I’m being sanctimonious because I get money from the Sunday World and RTE. I offer them a service, I do work for them, I get paid. Same as the Gooch does from The Examiner and RTE.

A testimonial dinner is entirely different. It’s the posh equivalent of a church gate collection for a political party or a GAA club. You put in something and hope for a return.

Hats off to the Gooch for coming up with this gig before anyone else.

But here’s one who doesn’t think it is a good idea. It sets a dangerous precedent and at a time when clubs and county boards are struggling to raise money, from any source they can, the idea that a player should benefit like this is nuts.

It is another step away from the roots of the GAA and, yes, this path takes us towards elitism.

Unless all the proceeds are given to charity or GAA units, the Gooch’s testimonial should be two in one: the first of them and the last of them.

Online Editors

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