"Hang on lads, there is more to life outside of Dublin" - Connellan is a rebel with a cause
John Connellan is a barrister, a footballer, a father, a busy man.
Busy enough anyway, not to go looking for a hiding to nothing. In taking on his latest mission, the Westmeath player has let himself in for a mountain of work, he's opened himself to the hyper-sensitive criticism that comes with the territory, and he's took on the status quo.
But this is a rebel with a cause who has an eye for nothing else but a fair outcome and if that means a long haul, so be it. His cause? Connellan looks at the disproportionate level of funding provided to the already financially thriving Dublin county board and wonders why it isn't given to counties who quite clearly, need it more?
Dublin GAA, after all, are a commercial beast that turned over just shy of €1 million in profit in 2019 mainly due to their marketing and sponsorship clout. That spent more than €500'000 in administration salaries in 2016.
All the while, according to the latest figures, they received almost €250 more in games development funding per registered player than Tyrone, than Mayo, than Kerry - than the rest of the country. Games development funding, let's not forget, that comes directly from the Gaelic Athletic Association.
What concerns Connellan most is that proportionately, this funding only increased in 2020 as Dublin was provided with 20% of the national allocation with their €745,695 share of the pot.
If, after last night's Leinster Final you're as concerned about football as I am then you might want to give this open letter a read and tag your county's twitter pages. @officialgaa @gaelicplayers @westmeath_gaa @MeathGAA @KildareGAA @OfficialLDGAA @wicklowgaa @ShaneSaint pic.twitter.com/zOhhyVvhQW
— John Connellan (@johnC_BL) November 22, 2020
And so he's decided to do something about it. The target is GAA congress in 2022, 18 months from now, when Connellan and a couple of like-minded individuals aim to have enough work done and awareness raised so that every club in the country has been introduced to these figures so that they can take it as a motion to their own county board, who can in turn take it as a motion to congress.
The road it is long.
"It's not anti-Dublin. I've been criticised by some sectors of the Dublin supporters saying 'look you know, do you realise what you're doing here, this money is going towards young kids in Dublin who could be turning towards crime and this kind of thing,'" he says on a GAA Hour interview with Colm Parkinson.
"I just find myself going 'hang on lads, there is more to life outside of Dublin.'
"I come from the town of Athlone, 22'000 people. Being generous, GAA in Athlone is the third choice sport. Pat Gilroy argued on the Sunday Game that they're losing the battle between the canals. Well they've been losing the battle down in Athlone, the inner-city in Galway, down the country, for a very, very long time..."
"The objective of the motion - Games Development money, from my reading of it, is distributed on an ad-hoc basis at the moment, without any business case analysis for each county, zero levels of means testing on counties as to their needs, projects that counties are trying to achieve.
"There are clubs in Dublin that, on top of the GPOs and part-funded GPOs, they're empolying full-time staff off their own bat. Whereas down the country we just have to rely solely on volunteers, who can't go into the schools if they work 9-5 and can't dedicate the time to put coach education structures in place," he continues.
"The Dublin county board are producing figures that some big companies would be envious of in terms of profit turnover. The county board can certainly sustain the clubs that are struggling in Dublin. Dublin would be more than able to fund their own coaching and games and development structures.
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— The GAA Hour (@TheGAAHour) February 25, 2021
"If we even had a fraction of the games development funding that went into Dublin towards the late 90s and 2000s, we'd have far better numbers in Athlone, Galway, Ballinasloe, all of these places.'
To address the imbalance, a buy-in is needed. That's down to Gaels all over the country.