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'There is all to lose in doing so, and nothing to gain' - GAA chief against any Dublin split

Páraic Duffy’s annual report was released this morning.

Dublin players celebrating last year's All-Ireland final win.
Dublin players celebrating last year's All-Ireland final win.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

RETIRING GAA DIRECTOR-General Páraic Duffy has defended the Dublin senior footballers in his annual report, insisting that there is ‘nothing to gain’ by dividing the county.

Calls for Dublin to be split into two — or more — teams have been aplenty over the past few years, and they intensified throughout 2017 as Dublin competed a three in-a-row of All-Ireland senior football crowns.

Opinions on a split were starkly divided across the country with pundits and commentators alike weighing in on the debate week in, week out.

And writing in his annual report which was presented at Croke Park this morning, Monaghan native Duffy stressed that he was a strongly against the idea of splitting the reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions.

In full on that topic, he wrote:

“Once again, an outstanding victory by Dublin in the All-Ireland football championship triggered calls from some commentators for the division of Dublin into two or three separate units. It is only a generation ago that the fear being expressed was that the GAA in our capital city was dying in the face of the threat from soccer and rugby. How the mantra has changed… and how memories are short.

“There’s no doubt that Dublin enjoys advantages over every other county. It has the larges population and can access greater financial resources through sponsorship.

“But resources in terms of finance or population are no guarantee of All-Ireland success, as Dublin discovered between 1983 and 2011 when it won juts one All-Ireland senior football title. That was in 1995, with a one-point victory over Tyrone. In achieving their five All-Ireland successes 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 steamrolling 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-county competition.

Dublin fans on Hill 16 A general view of Dublin fans on Hill 16. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“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 management team.

“The county committee, too, must receive credit for the processes and structure they have adopted through which they identify talent, appoint the best personnel to prepare their teams and ensure that they get the best from their resources.

“One of the reasons why Dublin footballers generate support is that they give Dubliners a unique opportunity to celebrate their proud Dublin identity. While there may be a mild and humorous northside/southside divide in Dublin (which, of course, does not include the greater Dublin western suburbs), 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 of the city to follow their team, which the championship format from 2018 will allow?

“So, neither on competitiveness grounds, nor on account of the unfairness of depriving Dubliners of the pleasure of expressing their local and 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.”

Duffy, the 18th person to serve as the GAA’s Director-General, will retire from the role on 31 March after almost nine years in the position.

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