"What about me sponsors?"

Published Sunday, 21 August 2011
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The great Kevin Hefferon tells a good story about a conversation he had with a Dublin footballer, a couple of years back.

Like all old school stalwarts of the game, he felt it only right to offer a bit of advice to one of the younger generation coming through.

So he told this particular player that he should stick to his strengths of winning the ball out in front of his man and laying it off to other forwards to do the scoring.

Plain and simple. "Know your limits", he told him. Totally astonished that he would be advised to do such a thing, the player in question replied, "But what about me sponsors?"

Somewhat confused by the statement, Hefferon asked him, "What do you mean?" To which the player replied, "But me sponsors want to see my name coming up on the scoreboard every game."

A funny story, but one that perhaps underpins how the mindset of the modern day GAA player may have changed in the last decade.

Some weeks back, I wrote my blog about the huge investment pumped into Dublin hurling over the last number of years, which has seen a major rise in the fortunes of hurling in the county.

It is no secret that the senior team want for nothing. The same can also be said of the footballers.

But how long before they want a little more? Early morning training sessions, weekends away from home, all mean less time for work, and less time to spend with friends and loved ones.

The commitment shown by some of these cutting edge teams, and the preparation involved makes them professional athletes in all but name.

The fitness and conditioning levels attained are testament. In four weeks time, thirty players will put on entertainment for 85,000 supporters at Croke Park.

At €80 a ticket the GAA will recoup massive revenue from this show piece event. Everyone working in the stadium that day will be paid. Physios, doctors, guards, bar tenders, stewards, programme sellers, you name it, they will be on the pay roll. Well, almost everyone.

Ironically, the people providing the entertainment won't. As the GAA brand and product goes from strength to strength, then teams will continue to leave no stone unturned in the quest for success.

But as an amateur, there has to be a threshold of commitment that cannot be surpassed.

In the longer term, the big worry for the GAA has to be the threat to the amateur status and increasing pressure for pay for play.

This would be a bad move for the association, but one that will continue to raise its ugly head. In premiership soccer, success (apart from Manchester United) is largely dictated by money and billionaire owners who can flash the cash to buy the best players.

Of course this is totally irrelevant to the GAA. But are we in danger of evolving a situation, where a top tier of counties who can best afford to look after their players and invest heavily in the set-up, will continue to get stronger at the expense of weaker teams with less resources?

If so, then the GAA will be asked questions about their contribution, or lack of, in helping to create a two tier system where the rich get richer at the expense of their poorer cousins.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
bill barnes in belfast wrote (1,254 days ago):
Totally disagree with your comments about Man Utd not splashing the millions to buy success. They paid millions for the new goalkeeper, for vidic for rio for evra for carrick for park for young for rooney for berbatov for new defender jones for nani and even van de sar who has retired. you can't live on the memory of once having discoverd 5 kids all at once in the nevilles beckham schloes and giggs. those days are gone. United are paying huge money to stay at the races.
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Kevin Madden
Kevin Madden

GAA expert Kevin Madden was one of Antrim's star footballers until his career was cruelly cut short by illness in 2006 when he was just 29.

Since then he has enjoyed a successful career in management.

He was number two to Derry manager Damian Cassidy in 2009 and 2010.

Before that he acted as assistant to former Antrim manager Liam Bradley with Glenullin.

Kevin, who is from Portglenone, now manages another Derry club side The Loup.

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