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Comment & Analysis

Lilywhites’ good name unjustly blackened


YOU WOULD be fed up with this muck weather and this recession without end, but not as fed up as with this stuff presented to us like the hastily-thrown-together-bundle-of-horseshit-that-it-is they call GAA journalism.

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Take the stories last week on Kildare’s €300,000 dig out from Corporate Park. It is right that it was reported, questioned and identified as a bailout rather than paying heed to this “advance” guff.

Much of the rest of what was between the lines is built on perception, prejudice and double standards. The unprinted theory that goes unquestioned is this: Kieran McGeeney is a mercenary, Kildare are so desperate to win something that they’d sell their mother on a street corner in Newbridge if McGeeney took the notion that it would help – and between them the idiots have gone and thrown millions down the well just so they can lose by a point to Donegal.

Several hearts on several sports desks must have skipped a drumbeat when they realised the bailout was arriving the very week the Kildare senior footballers were flying to Portugal for a warm-weather training camp.

Imagine the disappointment when they were told the Kildare players had raised the money for the trip themselves. Facts are inconvenient when you’re trying to twist a story to fit your preconceptions, but they are not insurmountable.

Thus, several outlets glossed over this by assuming that by getting out and fundraising in winter, the players were taking money that would otherwise have gone to their county board.

Some of the money came from a concert by the award-winning soprano Celine Byrne; some of it is reported to have been contributed from the players’ own GAA grants. It is a hell of an assumption that the Portugal money is cash that would have gone to Kildare County Board if the players hadn’t gotten in there first.

The more exasperating assumption is that Kildare are throwing mad money about in a desperate bid to catch up. The plain truth is that they are spending no more on their flagship team than any county that is a contender for honours; they shelled out €750,000 last year and are cutting it to €600,000 this year.

Other teams stay overnight before away games as a matter of course. For Kildare’s crucial final league game against Galway this year, they did what county teams were doing 20 and 30 years ago; they got up that morning and got on a bus.

All this is ignored because it does not fit in with the commonly-received wisdom that McGeeney the mercenary is below spending millions; as if Johnny Doyle and Eamonn Callaghan are paid vast sums under the counter so they can spend their weekdays being fine-tuned by teams of sports scientists at a hi-tech secret facility deep under the Curragh, where the taxman will never find it.

McGeeney had to deal with these prejudices before when the free-scoring Armagh team he was a part of were painted as anti-football, blanket defence, spite merchants. He must note the absence of criticism for, say, the cynical things that Kerry do on a football field and conclude that the difference is that Armagh were an unfashionable, northern team that didn’t have the good grace to go away after the first couple of trophies.

Similarly, he must be a calm man not to explode at this insinuation that Kildare are trying to “buy an All-Ireland” when he compares the resources available to him with those of the teams ranked above the Lilies.

He would not have to go as far as Cork, where €1.5m was spent on football and hurling in 2010, but could instead make comparisons with last year’s All-Ireland champions, who Kildare were one contentious refereeing decision away from matching last summer.

Around the same time his players sat down last winter to figure out what they could contribute and who they could hit up to fund a week of hard training abroad, Dublin, replete with WAGs, were heading to Florida on a team holiday where the flights were paid for by Aer Lingus as part of a lucrative three-year deal.

The €750,000 Kildare spent last year pales in comparison to the €1.75m spent by Dublin, even when you factor in that the capital’s hurlers had a busy season.

The Dubs, of course, are in no need of a bailout, for their sponsorship with Vodafone last year alone netted more than €1million. The figures for what Kildare receive from Tegral, their sponsors of 20 years, are not at hand, but one must conclude that a slate company whose profits fell 99 per cent last year would not match a global communications firm that made a profit of €106m in Ireland alone in 2011.

Perhaps some of Kildare’s €750,000 spend went on small perks for players, though on that budget, it could not compete with the clutch of Dublin footballers driving new Renaults on the back of yet another sponsorship deal announced this year, which includes vehicles for transporting gear provided free of charge.

McGeeney might reflect that Dublin benefit from the “spring series” idea that Corporate Park spends €100,000 marketing, before you even get to the €95,000 it cost the suits to arrange “entertainment” that includes hyperactive, chancer twins from Lucan roaring inanities into a microphone.

McGeeney’s county board, meanwhile, might survey the red figures on the balance sheet and reflect that there are more full-time coaches working out of Parnells GAA club in Dublin that there are in the entire county of Kildare.

Nobody who loves the games would think that the stunning inroads the GAA has made in Dublin the past 20 years is a bad thing.

If we could have a reasonable presentation of the facts, however, rather than witch-hunts motivated by begrudgery, we could start having grown-up debates on what the financial disparity between the Dublins and Corks and the smaller counties means for competition.

We might even come to the conclusion that a spending cap on county teams would keep the dozen-plus counties who are in financial trouble on an even footing.

That suggests fairness and a non-capitalist ethos, however. Even though they are charged with upholding those values, those are the last things that are of interest to the suits. With nothing to fear from a supplicant media, they can continue to run an inequitable system from Corporate Park, where the real mad money is spent.


*Eamonn is on Twitter: @EamonnOMolloy



Eamonn O Molloy

Eamonn O'Molloy is Gaelic Football columnist withThe Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @EamonnOMolloy

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