It Seems We've Been Having The Same Conversations About Dublin GAA Longer Than Many Realise

It Seems We've Been Having The Same Conversations About Dublin GAA Longer Than Many Realise

The current unease surrounding Dublin's dominance of Gaelic football has led to some unusual conversations.

When despairing culchies or end of history theorists posit that the Dubs are unbeatable and speculate upon whether their success will indeed extend into perpetuity, many Dublin fans become defensive and lash out.

Often times, they then insist that everyone in their vicinity remember that time when Dublin were useless.

"What about the period between 1995 and 2011? And the late 90s? We were shite then," they announce triumphantly. Almost boasting about the periods in which they won nothing.

Balls has walked into many taverns and met many Kerry supporters down the years but has met remarkably few who voluntarily attempted to steer the conversation back to football in the early 90s.

When writing an article a couple of years ago about Kerry football's bleak years during the Charlton era, Balls naturally attempted to contact Denis 'Ogie' Moran, manager of Kerry in the mid-90s and a regular talking head on Laochra Gael documentaries covering Kerry's golden era darlings. When asked would he like to contribute to an article on Kerry's travails in the first half of the 1990s, he very politely told us he would "hate" to do that. He actually used the word "hate".

Of course, what underlies these conversations is the fear that the Dubs are going to get too strong and will one day have to be split. And there'll be no more Dubs. No more chants of 'Come on Ye Boys in Blue' on the Hill.


If the All-Ireland championship was to ever go the way of the Leinster championship (d'you remember the Leinster championship? Wasn't it great craic while it was still going?) then for the health of the inter-county game, the split may be the only option on the table.


Whenever the nuclear solution is proposed now, Dublin supporters often shoot back - "I didn't hear people calling for Dublin to be split when we weren't winning anything between '95 and '2011?"

In actual fact, there was a very serious proposal to split Dublin back in 2001.

The Dubs weren't exactly pulling up trees in 2001. They hadn't even won Leinster in six years, never mind an All-Irealnd. Their record at underage level was quite poor. They were still awaiting their first U21 title.

In October 2001, the GAA's Strategic Review Committee (SRC) - chaired by ex-President Peter Quinn - recommended that the county be split in two.


They even had a time-frame in mind. It was envisioned that Dublin North and Dublin South would enter the All-Ireland championship in 2005. The Liffey would be the dividing line. Dublin would still compete as one team in hurling.

It would be fair to say that the Dubs were peeved over the idea.

Then chairman of the county board, John Bailey announced that the split would only happen "over my dead body."

He accused the SRC of "bullying tactics" in attempting to ram something through that no one wanted. He vented on the matter to Tom O'Riordan in the Irish Independent.

I have repeatedly said that what Dublin needs to expand and develop the games is to get the necessary financial support from Croke Park.

They made €6.6 million from extra games in the championship last year, but all Dublin received was €44,000 which is useless to put in place the structures we need.

Dublin have received a pittance from sponsorships by the Bank of Ireland and Guinness and nothing from TV. If the GAA were serious about Dublin, they would invest proper money in the capital, but it will be over my dead body they will split my county which I and others passionately believe in.

The Sunday Times and the Sunday Tribune conducted polling among Dublin clubs and their members. They found that 95% were prepared to reject the idea "out of hand". It's left open to the reader whether the other 5% would also rejected the proposal after the briefest of consideration.


Split Dublin

Bernard Brogan Snr. suggested that one of the sides would quickly dominate the other - at that time probably the North team - and the other team would grow weak.

We need the county to win an All-Ireland, not to be split down the middle. One or other of the teams would begin to dominate and the weaker one would gradually disintegrate.

By early 2003, the Dubs had succeeded in forcing the proposal off the agenda. It was decided that Dublin would be divided into three purely for administrative purposes but this would have no impact on the teams that lined out.


It's not only in the issue of the split that we find echoes of the past. Questions of 'manufactured success' also predate the current Dublin team - by some decades.


These complaints have hung over the current team and, with each passing success, constant reference is made to the money that has being pumped into the capital since the days when John Bailey used to moan about receiving a pittance. See the dramatic stats published yesterday by sport scientist Shane Mangan on the subject of games development money.

In an article for Magill magazine, written shortly after the 1978 All-Ireland final, player-manager Tony Hanahoe explained what went wrong against Kerry.

The article bore a subheading that wouldn't look out of place in the climate of 2016.

"HOW did the reputedly unbeatable Super-Dubs suffer such an abject defeat by Kerry?"

Split Dublin

In the course of the article, he lashed out at the suggestion, apparently rife, that Dublin team of the 70s had become an increasingly professionalised outfit and that their success had been "easily bought".

It doesn't say much for Dublin's supposed professionalism either that they made the two bad mistakes or that they allowed these to disrupt their game so completely.

Professionalism is a tag I have come to resent. It has usually been used in a derogatory sense, to imply that our achievements have been easily bought rather than being the product of honest endeavour, skill and a little know-how.

The "reputedly unbeatable super-Dubs", as Magill sub-editors dubbed them, assailed by the accusation that their "achievements had been easily bought" proceeded to win two All-Ireland titles in the next 32 years.

And Hanahoe was forced to highlight the blunders of his team to ward off the suggestion that Dublin had become too strong, too professional, too machine like. Oddly, not dissimilar to many fans now.

Read more: Fascinating Graphic Shows How Most Of The GAA's Development Money Goes To Dublin

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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