A wealth of factors make a winning GAA team, not just financial backing

A wealth of factors make a winning GAA team, not just financial backing

Cork’s Shane Kingston celebrates winning a free against the Kerry minors. Rebel county is still working towards a strategy that can exploit its playing numbers and history. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

THAT time of the year where normally we hear about GAA finances merges with that time of the year winners are crowned and we all wonder if there’s a connection. 

Like every successful team, the origin stories of this Limerick hurling wonder are studied for hints on how to follow. Hunger and honesty, physique and skills and savage point-taking, extraordinary talent, all checked. 

A system for producing players through underage, experiences and losses and wins along the way, all checked. A clearly progressive culture of details and coaching that’s made a difference, checked. 

Mostly it’s just the sense of a plan in place that’s made it all come together, that the emergence of Limerick winning two All-Irelands in three years follows a pattern where this result was given the best chance of happening. A Dublin win this weekend would emphasise the idea that any sort of success will need serious backing from any county. 

All-Irelands just aren’t won by accident these days.

Kyle Hayes of Limerick in action against Jack Prendergast and Jack Fagan of Waterford. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Kyle Hayes of Limerick in action against Jack Prendergast and Jack Fagan of Waterford. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

A small window exists for an alternative route, basically the emergence of one leader of such influence that acts as a gamechanger. Cork had Billy Morgan-Larry Tompkins previously but it’s less likely now to be enough here. Brian Cody with Kilkenny, though he had tradition. 

Tyrone with Mickey Harte, though he had that group of players. Donegal with Jim McGuinness certainly. Limerick seem to have lucked out with the John Kiely-Paul Kinnerk combo and struck that sweet spot of having the developmental aspect working and then the right guys at exactly the right times to evolve that. 

Ditto Dublin with Pat Gilroy and then Jim Gavin who both performed exactly the necessary details to enable the other factors play themselves out. 

When Liverpool won the Premier League last autumn there were extremely lengthy detailed explainer pieces about everything from Jurgen Klopp’s amazing energy to the throw-in coach to the vast scouting department and head of operations behind the scenes to the data analysis department run by scientists. 

Liverpool's Sadio Mane. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire.
Liverpool's Sadio Mane. Picture: Matt Dunham/PA Wire.

There was a temptation at times to just wonder was it not all down really to Sadio Mane’s skills and Trent’s wand of a right foot and Virgil’s ability to control a defence. 

The reality is that it all adds up. I remembered asking Kevin Clancy about Cork football’s 2010 win and it was all just about finding little things that create advantages and give the edge at the end.

It’s probably fair to say having money available doesn’t exactly hinder the cause and the boring off-field stuff does impact the on-field activities. The advantages with Dublin have been listed plenty and yes they’ve still needed to be very clever and yes, the players being so driven and so damn good has mattered more than people might want to admit but the access to funds with such ease has made everything flow in the one direction. 


It’s not even so much the GAA grant money as much as the massive sponsorship deals that allow equipment and facilities and coaching at the higher end to filter down even at club level where GDAs spread the word into local clubs and schools to ensure numbers are basically through the roof all the time. 

Dublin is a monster of an operation. Limerick haven’t fared too badly in the sponsorship stakes with JP McManus heavily involved right from the set-up of the academies right through to this current senior team. 

It’s one reason why Cork GAA have led heavily with the One Cork angle this week or two, a sort of acknowledgement that these kinds of success stories don’t tend to happen without access to hard cash and that right now, Cork GAA needs all the help it can get in generating that.

Griping about the launch of one Cork while wondering about lack of mentions of centres of excellence is sort of missing the point. The Kerry GAA Centre of Excellence relied heavily on help from business and private donations. 

The link-up with the local universities/colleges in Cork (CIT especially this past couple of years) has given venues and access to personnel and expertise and should become a more defined place for coaching ideas to take hold and players to flourish in those key development years. 

The value of Cork GAA as a brand has to affect the desire of businesses wanting to be involved in the project longer-term - there’s an element of Cork needing this kind of backing to help a consistent breakthrough and yet business is more likely to get involved with an organisation that promises positivity. 

The crisis stories have been fewer this past year or two but apart from the win over Kerry there hasn’t been the sort of momentum built that might convince there are great days ahead just yet. 

You can see the potential for spectacular success – is there any market more likely to explode than say the Cork jersey if a Cork football/hurling team goes on a winning spell over two or three seasons? The interest in the Christy Ring story suggests an untapped area in the history/museum lines. 

The Páirc looked well in this winter of games but it has to find a way of getting as many bodies in as often as possible post-covid. Cork GAA needs a thriving group of interests behind the scenes to allow it cater for the ambitions of players/clubs/county teams. 

The figures dropped in Kevin O’Donovan’s report this week weren’t as shocking as last year (partly as we all know now and well, Covid hardly helped income streams) and yet there’s still a gaping hole that needs filling while Cork supporters look for their signature teams to keep pace with what’s happening in the leading counties. 

The development squads have been working and there’s more to do to get clubs up to speed everywhere. 

One Cork should begin to provide the necessary background help. The plan is slowly coming together but may need time and the right people, in the end, to make it work.

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