Jim McGuinness: How GAA can level the play field amid funding row


Dublin’s facile Leinster final victory last week sparked a debate once again around the capital’s dominance in the province, and how the playing field could be levelled.

Dessie Farrell’s side hammered Meath, prompting former Westmeath star John Connellan to pen an open letter, calling for change.

The letter was analysed on Inside The Game this week, and Jim McGuinness gave his thoughts.

“A lot of this is down to hope, and they (players from outside Dublin in Leinster) don’t believe there is hope for the future, moving forward. And some of these numbers try and reflect that,” said the former Donegal boss.

“It’s not a letter that is a dig at Dublin. It’s an opportunity to create a conversation around where this thing is going.

“Dublin received €16.6million in funding in that 10-year period. Meath during the same period, €822,647. Westmeath got €725,501. Then you’ve got the big multi-nationals coming in [to sponsor Dublin].

“They have other deals as well with official sponsors.

“So the team is very, very well supported because it’s a big, big brand.

“We’re not even talking about the fact that there’s 1,400,000 people, and that’s always going to be a challenge. You can’t change that. There’s over 100,000 in Donegal. There’s 50,000 in Cavan. That’s not going to change.

“So these are all the challenges facing the other teams in Leinster, and at the moment now they feel that there’s no hope. They are in a situation where they basically can’t compete at that level.”

‘Dublin to be commended’

However, McGuinness was keen to point out that Dublin must be praised for how they have improved in recent years.

“Dublin have got their house in order,” he said.

“People for years and years were asking why could they not be more successful? [They were] losing big games, crunch games. Dublin have changed all that.

“They have put the structures in place. They have created genuine high performance, Premier League-level high performance that underpins the teams in the county jersey. That is all to be commended.

“The challenge now is for the other counties to get to the same level as that. If we can achieve that, you’re in a really good spot in terms of the package that is going to be on display for everybody.”

Can balance be restored?

“For me, coming from my background in sports science and sports psychology, as well as coaching, I think it’s so important that the structures are in place for kids to develop,” McGuinness continued.

“That’s the first thing. I think every county should have a high-performance manager. Every county should have access to high-performance strength-and-condition coaches, nutrition, psychology, all the things that it takes to get to the level and stay at the level.

“That should be a given for every county team. Where that money comes from, if there’s a disparity at the moment, then that money needs to be spread out through every county in the country, not just in Leinster.

“If every child is given the best opportunity to develop and go forward, everybody will be happy.

“We won’t be able to navigate the 1,400,000-people situation, but at least the kids in [every] county are given that chance.

“There’s a part of me that thinks some county boards have almost opted out, because they know that they can’t compete. Are you going to throw three-quarters of a million [Euro] at this project, knowing you’re probably going to fail anyway?

“And so I think the Central Council need to step in, and they need to do the right thing. They need to put the other counties on a sound footing in terms of development. Give the kids in the counties the best possible opportunity to be the best that they can be.

“It’s about hope for these counties. And it’s about fairness. People want fairness in terms of the funding, and they want hope that there’s an opportunity for them to step out in that jersey, and compete and progress and develop. And ultimately, at the end of that process, be in a position to take the big guns on. That, for me, is what it’s all about. If we can create that, then football will be in a much better place.”

You can watch the full discussion on Inside The Game in the video at the top of this article.

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