'Red-eye' flight for Wicklow footballers sees Johnny Magee call for support
Some Wicklow players rose at 4.15am to catch early-morning London flight for league match
Wicklow football manager Johnny Magee has stepped up his appeal for more support for weaker counties after some of his players had to climb out of bed at just after 4am on Sunday morning to catch a 'red-eye' flight to London for their last Division 4 league match.
Wicklow opted to fly in and out of the English capital in the same day, resulting in such an early start for some of their players.
The prohibitive cost of an overnight stay for squad members and the backroom team was a factor in the travel arrangements.
"I didn't push it with the county board. If there was promotion at stake we would have pushed it but the board have their own financial challenges, as a lot of boards do, and we accept that," said Magee.
Wicklow won the game by 2-10 to 1-10 but Magee conceded it wasn't the best way to prepare for the game. He has been vocal in the past about the need for greater equality at inter-county level.
Magee said the first pick-up point for the 7.10am flight out of Dublin was 5am at the Grand Hotel in Wicklow.
"I suppose players would have needed to be up between 4am and 4.15am to get ready and be at that point on time.
"The early start is an issue but even more so is the quality of sleep you get that night," he pointed out. "You're asking fellas to be in bed by 10.0 when their sleep patterns are probably different.
"We'd have a set match-day routine but it doesn't involve a 4am start," he said.
Wicklow had other pick-up points along the way before they all convened in Faughs GAA club in Templeogue and took a bus to the airport.
"We were over in London and out of the airport just after 9am so we had a bit of time after that," he said.
"I suppose if we had lost it would have been an even greater issue but Wicklow just doesn't have the resources, I'd understand that," he said.
"We can't go to a sponsor and say, 'We can guarantee you such a level of exposure because we are going to be on television so many times.' We're lucky to get a couple of minutes of the 'Sunday Game' once or twice a year," he said.
Magee said he has sympathy for London who must make the reverse journey three to four times a year, depending on qualifier draws.
The former Dublin player feels a lot of Division 4 and even Division 3 counties find themselves making long match-day journeys to avoid overnight costs and he cites it as an example of how less self-sufficient counties who don't have the capacity to generate revenue could be helped out.
"I've spoken about this and I'd say it again that less successful counties need more support across the board," he said.
Wicklow chairman Martin Coleman explained that the arrangement for a same-day return trip to London has been in place since Mick O'Dwyer's time in charge and has worked fine in the past but added that part of the decision would be down to finance. Wicklow did not have any overnight stays with their furthest journey to Leitrim which they completed in the same day.
Coleman said that if there had been promotion at stake there is no doubt that they would have stayed on the Saturday night beforehand.
Trips to London for fixtures are factored in when league revenue is being redistributed by the GAA.