Thursday 22 February 2018

Páraic Duffy launches staunch defence of Dublin and their fans and rubbishes suggestions county should be split in two

Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello, Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny, John Small and Mick Fitzsimons with Sam Maguire after their All-Ireland final victory over Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Mannion, Cormac Costello, Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny, John Small and Mick Fitzsimons with Sam Maguire after their All-Ireland final victory over Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

GAA Director General Páraic Duffy has rubbished suggestions that Dublin should be split and be forced to field two football teams.

In his final report after a decade in the association's highest office, Duffy acknowledges that Dublin enjoy advantages over every other county, but he argues that these extra resources in terms of finance or population is no guarantee of All-Ireland success.

He asks whether those suggesting Dublin be split have given any thought to what the GAA would lose were it to happen.

"For the life of me I don't see any advantage in it," said Duffy, when asked to elaborate on his comments.

Should Dublin be divided in two?

In his report Duffy wrote:

"In achieving their five All-Ireland titles in the past seven years, the margin of victory was a single point in four finals (one after a replay) and a three-point victory over Kerry in 2015.

"This hardly constitutes evidence of a county stream-rolling over all opposition, or proof of the need to divide a county because it is vastly superior to the rest and must be broken up into two or three divisions for inter-competition.

"The history of our games, and of sport in general, tells us that Dublin won't win forever. Apart from that, there are a couple of observations to be made.

"First, the main reason for Dublin's current success is that they have an outstanding group of players and an exceptional team management.

"One of the reasons why Dublin footballers generate support is that they give Dubliners a unique opportunity to celebrate their proud Dublin identity.

"While it may well be a mild and humorous northside/southside divide in Dublin, this geographical affiliation comes nowhere near matching the passionate identification of all Dubliners with their team.

"One is led to wonder if the 'divide Dublin' proponents have given any thought to what the GAA would lose if Dublin were to be split. Have they given any thought to what Dubliners would lose?

"And is the sight of Dublin supporters on Hill 16 not one of the great spectacles in Irish sport? And are we not all looking forward to seeing Dublin supporters in their thousands heading out to Dublin city to follow their team, which the championship format from 2018 will allow?

"So, neither on competitive grounds, nor on account of the unfairness of depriving Dubliners of the pleasure of expressing their local historical identity through the GAA (as every other GAA supporter is allowed to do) should we countenance the splitting up of Dublin.

"There is all to lose in doing so, and nothing to gain," warns Duffy.

In a wide ranging report which runs to 20,000 words, Duffy argues for the introduction of a tiered football championship.

Welcoming the decision of Congress to introduce the new Super 8 competition for a three-year trial period, he suggests that this structure is likely to be a temporary arrangement.

"It will allow the Association time to devise a system that will meet the needs of less successful counties.

"There are compelling arguments in favour of developing a tiered football championship, as in hurling, but the decade around the issue remains as difficult as ever, notable in resolving the question of how a tiered championship would be structured."

Acknowledging that achieving consensus while preserving the provincial championships will not be easy, he says the GAA must find a way to give all counties the possibility of success in the football championship.

"It should be noted that in 2018 the All-Ireland hurling championship will consist of five competitions. In football, there is only one, a structure that is not sustainable."

Duffy again calls on the GAA to address the illegal payments to managers at club and inter county level.

"The great difficulty we face is that we are challenging deeply embedded attitudes that inform our behaviour, and that are therefore difficult to change. But we need to find a way to instigate the debate we avoided in 2010 (when Duffy first addressed the issue)

"It may be bruising and may take time, but it will provide an opportunity to begin to change the existing payments culture and to come to a position consistent with our declared values.

"I wrote in 2010 that the choice facing the Association was a simple one; either we do nothing in the certain knowledge that nothing will change and that in five or ten years we would still be lamenting the damage to our ethos and values – or we decide that it would be irresolute and defeatist not to confront directly a practice that we proclaim to be a blemish on the association.

"The choice is the same one now, and the need to address it even greater."

GAA President Aoghan O'Farrell said it was a challenging report. Paying tribute to Duffy, he said he was an outstanding and energetic individual.

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