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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Babs Keating points finger at Jim Gavin for rising cost of funding inter-county teams

The former Tipperary manager also reflects on a lesson Christy Ring taught him on perfection.

Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin.
Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

TIPPERARY GREAT BABS Keating believes Jim Gavin is to blame for the rising cost of preparing senior inter-county teams, which hit €30m for the first time last year.

The GAA’s 2019 annual report saw costs of fielding inter-county sides increase by 11.6% on the previous year, prompting director general Tom Ryan to describe it as “a trend that simply cannot continue.”

Boosted by the arrival of Teneo as team sponsors, Tipperary spent €1.77 million on county team administration expenses in 2019 on the way to claiming All-Ireland hurling glory.

“Everything about what is happening at inter-county level is a money scene,” said Keating

“We know Tipperary can’t sustain spending two million on the hurling team, Dublin can. It is unfair. This is where it all started with Jim Gavin. Sheedy copied Jim Gavin. To me this idea of 40 players in the dressing room, some of them have three goalkeepers.

“What the fuck do you do with three goalkeepers can you tell me?

“What do you do with 10 guys extra? You’re going to have a match with 30 guys. What do you do with 10 guys training?

“These fellas should be at home playing with their clubs, the clubs should be playing in May, June and July.

“It’s not sustainable from the people that putting the money in, because they can’t accept that money is wasted, and I mean wasted. And when you’re wasting money, you’ll find people are very slow and reluctant to put their hands in their pocket.

“To have a backroom team of 21, I think Sheedy has 21, Gavin probably had the same. How the fuck do you manage 21 fellas and their wives? That’s beyond me.

“We’re supposed to be an amateur sport. Manchester United don’t have those numbers. If two million to spend to win an All-Ireland is the norm, you can rule Waterford, Clare, maybe Cork, maybe Galway out, Wexford.

“If that’s the norm, if that’s what it takes to win an All-Ireland. Jim Gavin was the first to start it, because money isn’t a problem in Dublin. It’s not a level playing field in the GAA at the moment.

“In fairness to all the other counties, they deserve that. You know what I mean? For 11 other counties in Leinster trying to compete with what Dublin are at.”

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allianz-leagues-sponsorship-renewal-of-allianz-leagues Babs Keating at the announcement of the five-year extension of Allianz's sponsorship of the football and hurling leagues. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Reflecting on his own playing career, Keating recalled two great lessons he learned from legendary figures Tony Wall and Christy Ring.

“I learned a few very important points that I would make to anybody today. The first match I played with Tipperary, we played Wexford in a league final. I ran onto an aul ball around centre-field or half-back. Let fly. Dribbled wide.

“Tony Wall was one of the great exponents of hurling and he had written a book, the first to write a hurling book. I travelled to training with Tony and he said to me, ‘Now young lad, you’re a very good hurler. But no player playing hurling for Tipperary strikes a ball unless he has a reason for it. You did that last Sunday.’

“Which he was right. Now, think of it. The amount of players you see striking a ball with a hurley without looking.”

Moving onto Ring, he said: “Another experience I had, Christy Ring to me was the greatest. He taught me the greatest lesson I was ever taught in perfection. I worked for Esso, the biggest company in the world.

“They brought us to many, many seminars trying to make us better salesmen. I played a Munster final in ’68 and I scored more than Cork, winning the Munster final. Ring was a selector with Cork.

“We worked the same territory with different companies, he was with Shell and I was with Esso. We used to meet for lunch regularly and we went the following day in the Central Hotel in Mallow.

“We walked out to the car and you have to visualise what Ring was. He had the balance of Maradona or Messi, he had strength in his arms. He walked out and turned to me, ‘Jaysus Babs, you were great yesterday.’

“Now he was looking after Cork. And he said, ‘But if Tipp were beaten by a point, would you have accepted responsibility?’

“Now he saw me missing a point that he’d have got and that very few would have remembered. The headings in the paper the following day ‘Keating, Mackey and Ring in one go’, that was the heading in the (Irish) Times (by) Paddy Downey.

“Ring taught me the best lesson I was ever taught on perfection, and I went to many a seminar. That’s what players should be looking at.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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