DUBLIN MAY be in the gloriously enviable position of contesting five All-Ireland semi-finals within the next three weeks but the costs are mounting – and not just financially.
The Dublin senior and minor hurlers are both out in the All-Ireland semi-finals in Croke Park this Sunday, and likewise the senior and minor footballers on August 28th, while sandwiched in between is Dublin’s All-Ireland under-21 hurling semi-final date with Antrim, set for Saturday week.
Dublin chairman Andy Kettle is resisting putting any overall price on the preparations – except to say there will almost certainly be record costs for what is already a record year.
“This is definitely a first for Dublin,” says Kettle, “to be contesting five All-Ireland semi-finals in the same year. And obviously the further you go in the championship the greater the cost incurred, because that’s an awful lot of players expenses to be looked after.
“Last year’s overall cost for championship preparations was around €1 million, football and hurling, and we’d expect to at least top that this year, and I would certainly suggest it will be a record amount. But it’s just too soon to put an overall figure on it at this stage.
“We would certainly be looking for some additional fundraising this year, because there are always people in the greater Dublin community who will contribute. But as regards our overall costs, the intercounty team is only one aspect of that. Coaching and other promotional work at club level is another major cost, and that cannot suffer either, even at the expense of the intercounty teams.”
Dublin’s rising championship costs will at least be partly met by the Vodafone sponsorship agreement from January of last year: the six-year deal for both football and hurling is worth a basic €4.65 million, but rising to over €5 million if performance bonuses – such as reaching All-Ireland finals – are maximised.
But as Kettle points out, Dublin are fortunate in that along with the sponsorship package, they have the training facilities and other coaching and medical back-up in place to meet the demands of preparing five different teams for the final stages of the championship: “Well I don’t think Vodafone could have imagined they’d get such a kick from the hurling as well, but if you put up money for sponsorship you deserve every bit of publicity you get. Thankfully we’re also well sorted in terms of training facilities.
“If it was the depths of winter and you were looking for floodlit pitches it would be different, but between DCU, Parnell Park, O’Toole Park and a few others there is no pressure finding facilities at the moment.”
There is some additional cost, however, in that Dublin are now under increasing danger of missing out on both the Leinster club football and hurling championships, such is the backlog of their own club games. Part of the problem is the size and nature of the Dublin club championship, particularly in football, and also the result of the recent appeal of Ballyboden St Enda’s, which means clubs are not now obliged to play championship matches without the services of intercounty representatives from either football or hurling.
“It’s not a bad complaint to have,” says Kettle, “but that danger of missing the Leinster championship is there, absolutely. Right now we have one game left in round two of our football championship. Round three will be a 16-team round, and the teams that won one and lost one, in round one and two. The eight winners there go on to round four, to meet the double winners, and again it’s 16 teams. Round five is the last eight, round six the last four, and round seven the last two. So there are a lot of games to be played
“And the Ballyboden appeal means clubs don’t have to play football championship without intercounty hurlers, or vice versa. Although regardless of that the club football and hurling championship are both on hold at the moment. But Ballyboden were quite entitled to make that appeal. From a club level you do what’s best for your club.”
The Dublin football champions are due to play the Meath champions in Leinster on October 23rd, while the Dublin hurling champions are due out a week later, on October 30th, against the Westmeath champions.
“We have tried to pre-empt all this,” says Kettle, “and requested some leeway from the Leinster Council. But as of now that request has been refused. Our CCCC are trying to come up with some kind of a plan to expedite things, and I think team management need to talk with CCCC at the moment.”
Indeed it could be a while yet before the club championship resumes, depending on how far the Dublin footballers and hurlers progress: even if the hurlers lose to Tipperary on Sunday, the club hurling championship may not resume until the footballers also make their exit – or indeed win the All-Ireland outright.
“In other years when the footballers have progressed this far we’ve squeezed them in, admittedly rushed on some occasions. But where problems really arise is with draws, and that’s always likely at club championship level.”
In the meantime there will at least be a bonus for the Dublin county board in terms of gate receipts from the All-Ireland semi-finals, particularly with a full house expected from the Dublin-Donegal football semi-final on August 28th.
“Even this Sunday, with our minor hurlers playing ahead of the seniors, is a very attractive programme for Dublin supporters. Although whereas support for hurling has certainly increased this year, it’s not yet at the level of football support. But we expect our minors to be very close to Waterford on Sunday, because there’s as much confidence in this minor hurling team as there is the minor footballers.”
It seems then the senior hurlers against Tipperary are viewed as the least likely to progress of the five Dublin teams still in championship, but that’s not saying they don’t have a chance. Either way it will be a while yet before club action resumes in Dublin.
Drive for five
Sunday, 14th August
All-Ireland MHC semi-final
Dublin v Waterford,
Croke Park, 1.30pm
All-Ireland SHC semi-final
Tipperary v Dublin,
Croke Park, 3.30pm
Saturday, August 20th
All-Ireland under-21 HC semi-final
Antrim v Dublin,
Venue and time TBA
Sunday, August 28th
All-Ireland MFC semi-final
Dublin v Galway,
Croke Park, 1.30pm
All-Ireland SFC semi-final
Dublin v Donegal,
Croke Park, 3.30pm
Published in the Irish Times