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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 24 October, 2018

'Repetitive' and 'misinformed' - Dublin GAA chief hits out at criticism of All-Ireland winners

John Costello has pulled no punches in his annual report.

Dublin players celebrating their All-Ireland victory.
Dublin players celebrating their All-Ireland victory.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

DUBLIN GAA CHIEF John Costello has hit out at criticism aimed at Jim Gavin and his All-Ireland winning squad after last September’s triumph.

Costello has released his annual report ahead of next Monday’s Dublin GAA convention and has launched a staunch defence of the squad that completed a three-in-a-row of Sam Maguire triumphs.

In particular Costello has taken aim at ‘some of the issues and inaccuracies’ that he feels arose after the victory over Mayo and the fact that manager Jim Gavin ‘was the target on several occasions’.

“In the aftermath of our brilliant three in-a-row All-Ireland SFC success this year there was commentary from some quarters – I repeat some quarters – which I can’t let go unchallenged.

“Dublin teams, especially senior football ones, are well used to the cut and thrust of media analysis and scrutiny, successful ones even more so! It was there in the 1970s, there was a tsumani of vitriol after the 12 men of Dublin defeated Galway in 1983, and the current panel and management seem to be ‘fair game’ now in some eyes.

“A quick spin through this type of ‘commentary’ post this year’s decider against Mayo goes something like this – full-time whistle sounds; Stephen Cluxton lifts Sam; split Dublin in two, actually make that four; these conceited Dubs might be liked by some but they’ll never be loved; these unpatriotic Dubs they should be forced to surrender the GPO!

Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire Cup Stephen Cluxton lifts Sam Maguire. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Some of the ‘rhetoric’ was in fact so puerile it was like a collaboration between Roger
Hargreaves, the author of the Mr Men series of books, and the writers of that timeless classic, The Magic Roundabout!

“There used by a perennial column written in some publication about the dangers of the ‘Cult of the Manager’ maybe some commentators should examine the ‘Cult of Me’ which seems very much in vogue with some of them.

“For example have a go at the Dubs, then sit back, get invited as a paid guest onto various radio shows etc – kerching, cha-ching, cha-ching, kerching!

“I’ll try to outline, in no particular running order, some of the issues and inaccuracies.
We’ve been down this road before with regard to the splitting of Dublin and I don’t wish to copy and paste old convention reports here. Suffice to say that sense of place and identity is one of the core principles of Gaelic games. Dublin is a united county.

Jim Gavin celebrates with John Costello Jim Gavin celebrates with John Costello after last September's victory. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“However, this theme was given a fresh lick of paint this summer when it was implied that Dublin GAA was ‘short-changing’ young players in the capital and that it would be in the greater good if Dublin were split, for their own sake, if you wish. I presume that was an attempt at engineering dissent and not really a genuine, heartfelt plea for the ‘boys on the hill’ to be thrown a Dublin jersey?

“Maybe, if the powers that be and all other counties were in agreement, Dublin could enter a senior development squad in Division 4 of the league? Yes, didn’t think so! Moving on.

“Our senior football manager, Jim Gavin, was the target on several occasions during the
summer of plenty of hostility – one paper declaring mid-summer that Jim “was losing it” and that it was time for Jim to be moved on as “Dublin now need a true leader”.

“Jim’s ‘crime’ was standing up for one of his players, Diarmuid Connolly (who knows he crossed the line against Carlow) in the face so much rage and counter-rage. Then, after the All-Ireland final, Jim was again held up to much ridicule and inaccurate reporting.

Diarmuid Connolly walks away from linesman Ciaran Branagan Dublin defeated Carlow in June's Leinster quarter-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“The atmospheres in the rivals’ dressing rooms after an All-Ireland final could not be any more polar. One utter delirium, the other utter dejection.

“As Jim, rightly, does not see his first priority as Dublin manager to provide a ‘Turn Down’ service for the media, he was accused of effectively being very hostile and that his delay in getting to the media area was provocative.

“Perhaps we’ll have to get Jim to wear a GPS tracker in future, to give up to the second
information on his location. In fact, I think there was a spare one knocking around on All-Ireland final Sunday!

“The truth of the matter is different though. After celebrating and congratulating his players, management and backroom staff, the squad and members of management made time for pictures with a young Derry supporter with special needs.

“This young lad and his family had requested that he could spend some time with the Dublin players and management after the game and the team and management gladly obliged. Moving on.

“In response to ‘Mr Flip-Flop’, neither his real name nor a real Mr Men character, obviously these Dublin players will never be loved the length and breadth of the country, but they are liked, admired and respected by plenty outside the county.

“In fact, in terms of within the county, I don’t think, in my lifetime association with Dublin, that I have ever witnessed as strong a connection between our supporters and the current team and vice versa.”

Brian Fenton celebrates in front of Hill 16 Brian Fenton lifts the Sam Maguire in front of Hill 16. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Costello has also branded as ‘repetitive’ and ‘misinformed’ the schools of thought that Dublin have major advantages in terms of greater resources than other inter-county teams.

“Some of the commentary around Dublin’s perceived ‘advantages’ – such as population and finance – is both repetitive and often, quite frankly, misinformed.

“I’d like to address a number of recurring ‘beliefs’ about our current set-up at senior inter-county level.

  • Myth 1: Our senior teams have meals delivered to their homes on a daily basis or ever in fact. UNTRUE.
  • Myth 2: Our senior teams are given five-star, ‘all-expenses paid’ treatment. UNTRUE.

“Here’s a short story to illustrate such myths concerning our senior footballers! The hard yards every year are done in Innisfails GAA club in late winter/spring before they move to St Clare’s, DCU for Championship preparation.

“Last year, two training sessions were cut short owing to floodlight failure at Innisfails. On investigation, it turned out this was caused by a player, who had to return to the
dressing rooms following injury on the pitch, who turned on a heater which cut short the
circuit! Nothing five-star about that!

“Broadening out the debate, as I have often said the battle for young hearts and minds is
ongoing – and tougher than ever. My belief is that it is tougher in Dublin than in any other county in Ireland.

The Dublin team arrive for the team photo The Dublin squad before this year's All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“In rural areas, the local GAA club is often the very heart beat of the parish. Playing underage for the local club is often a rite of passage for young people. This is less so
in the larger suburban areas of Dublin.

“But through the wonderful work of our clubs and schools, we can reach as many young
Dublin children as possible and introduce them to what will hopefully be a lifelong love of our national games.

“But we are not in a situation where we are turning thousands of children away from the gates of our clubs every day. Other sports in the capital are well established, well organised and often directly in competition with our games.

“Add in the many other non-sporting distractions of a large city and you have a real challenge to attract young players. It may surprise some but the penetration of the GAA in certain areas of Dublin remains relatively low. This too remains an ever present challenge.

“I make no apology to anyone for the strategic investment we continue to make in this
regard. In my opinion, the benefits of the money spent here comes back in multiples – not just to Dublin GAA but to the organisation nationally and to wider society too.

“It helps to positively shape young lives and inculcates a culture of community, worth and belonging in them.”

In relation to the recent International Rules series, Costello rejected any notion that the Dublin squad had ‘snubbed’ the trip to Australia.

Paul Murphy and Killian Clarke dejected after the game Ireland players after this year's first test against Australia. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“And finally, you will be glad to read that suggestions that Dublin players had ‘snubbed’ the International Rules were totally untrue. Any player who was asked out for trials with the Irish team could not commit fully for the entire term owing to club commitments, or injury, or work.

“Despite Jack McCaffrey highlighting this for one commentator, in plenty of time befor publication, it was still dressed up as a ‘Dubs snub’ story with, what read as some half-hearted disclaimer, stuck in.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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