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Tomás Ó Sé: The counties whining about Dublin's 'advantages' are missing the point entirely


Diarmuid Connolly raises the Sam Maguire to fans after Dublin’s replay win over Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Diarmuid Connolly raises the Sam Maguire to fans after Dublin’s replay win over Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile


Diarmuid Connolly raises the Sam Maguire to fans after Dublin’s replay win over Mayo. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

When my uncle, Páidí, was a garda stationed in Limerick, the Kerry County Board used pay for him to have a steak three times a week.

A simple arrangement. The few bob handed across at training with a blunt proviso 'Get the good stuff into you this week Páidí, no garbage!' We're talking about the seventies here, an era that in some eyes seemed to amount to little more than a time of footballers running endless laps and sculling pints.

You'd think the game had no relationship with personal responsibility, that the heroes of the time all lived some kind of Brendan Behan existence, their talent straining desperately to survive the severity of hectic social lives.

The truth is that Kerry and Dublin stretched away from the rest of football in that era by coming to roughly the same conclusion. Mick O'Dwyer and Kevin Heffernan both deduced that a good, fit team would always get the better of a good, half-fit team. So they got their players to train accordingly.

And I suppose Páidí getting sponsored steaks was the equivalent of what Kerry do now, laying out a big buffet of food after Tuesday night training and supplying the players with containers into which they are to place their lunches for the following day.

I bring this up because I've been hearing all manner of stories about what it is that Dublin do, from home deliveries of pre-cooked meals to players' houses, to personal chef demonstrations of how to cook healthily, to booking each player a three-week course down with Darina Allen in Ballymaloe. Actually, I made that last bit up. But you'll get my drift.

Dublin have changed the face of the GAA apparently. They've gone vaulting off into the distance with the rest just swallowing their dust like fellas still doing their homework by candlelight. And all I can hear is whining. Someone even used the expression 'financial doping' and it seemed to me that one of the greatest problems we face in a GAA life is the curse of short memories.

Lord God, suddenly it's breaking news that Dublin have more players than the rest, more coaches and more money. Well, please tell me when life was any different. Please tell me of a time when they couldn't attract bigger sponsors or generate greater revenue, when their whole financial reality didn't dwarf those they were competing against. Just don't go back beyond Heffernan's early management years when you do so, because anything before '74 doesn't really count in my book.

And when you've failed that test, then solve one small riddle for me. Explain how between 1983 and 2011, Dublin only managed to win the Sam Maguire once. That's one All-Ireland in 28 years.

Something that Dublin are doing better than most today is they're putting the right people in charge of the right teams. This, in my view, is helping them keep other sports at bay, something that's not too big of an issue where I come from in West Kerry.

There's far too much whining coming out of certain counties, counties who should be more concerned with getting their own houses in order rather than giving out about someone else's. If other counties feel they don't have enough resources, then come up with a plan for how to get them.

Generally, county boards are improving in this regard, but I believe Dublin and Kerry have got a run on most of them. John Costello is a massive presence in the background of the Dublin set-up and, I believe, an integral part of their current success. I know he is a full-time paid CEO, but it's so obvious that he's absolutely on the same page as the football management and players too.

That harmony is something you also see in Kerry and Kilkenny and a big reason behind their strength on the field of play. The Dublin GAA machine is so well-run now, right down to foot-soldiers at the bottom, but maybe nothing is more important than the absence of ego.

Let's get something straight here though. This Dublin team is a special group and that's not down to money or the number of coaches in the city. Think about when Stephen Cluxton quits or Cian O'Sullivan quits or Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn or Michael Darragh Macauley.....we're talking once-off players here.

Do you honestly believe that there'll just be some seamless kind of hand-over to men of a similar standard? If you do, can I ask you what's the weather like in Cloud Cuckoo Land?

Look, no-one would like to see this Dublin team knocked off their perch more than I would, but it doesn't stop me recognising them as one of the most outstanding GAA teams of all-time. I like the way they conduct themselves. I like how Jim Gavin manages them. I like the sense of humility you get from the group, something that hasn't always been the case with Dublin football teams.

Yes the Dubs are hugely aware commercially as the appointment of Mossy Quinn as, essentially, their brand manager illustrated. Yes, the sums they've been getting in Games' Development payments may make others green with envy. But that's because Dublin have got their act together. They're progressive in how they conduct their business. But remember one thing. They're not exactly winning things by a country mile here.

Disregard Leinster which is a bit of a farce of a province right now and consider how the Dubs have drawn with Mayo in the last two Championships, how they beat Kerry by two points this year and how they lost to Donegal in 2014.

Consider how three of the four All-Ireland finals they've won in the last six years have been by a one-point margin. So spare me the hysteria following them around like an echo.

I mean Kerry have just won three All-Ireland minors in a row. Why? Because of the likes of Donal Daly and Pat O'Shea at Games Development level, the likes of Mike Quirke, Sean O'Sullivan, and Tommy Griffin.

I'm not trying to build my own county up for a fall because under-age success guarantees nothing at senior, but the counties that have their houses in order are still giving these Dubs a run for their money. Do you honestly believe the likes of Mayo and Tyrone and Donegal see Dublin as unbeatable?

Me neither.

Look anywhere you have bigger numbers, you'll have bigger investment. That's the way of the world. Get over it.

Seems to me nobody had much problem with the GAA investing in Dublin until the Dubs started winning. Now there's a whole heap of whining going on.

Are Tipp not an example to all here? Hurling is obviously the main sport there, rugby is making big inroads, but look at their achievements in football recently - winning a minor All-Ireland and getting to a senior semi-final this year. That didn't come from just flicking a switch. It came from an amount of work put in over the years.

It came from being willing to swim against the tide of people telling them they were wasting their time.

Tipp will probably get a couple of football Allstars this year which should be an inspiration to every other county, at least every other county that has their eyes open.

If you crave change, go do something different to make it happen.

Irish Independent