Level playing field often beyond the reach of competitors

Jerry Kiernan will undoubtedly have riled a lot of GAA devotees with his comments regarding funding the association receives. Now, it wasn’t his first time to have a ‘pop’ at our national games and, while extreme exception would have to be taken with the contention that they shouldn’t receive any state funding, looking at his views from another angle he may have a point.

Rory Kavanagh, Dunboyne AC

There’s no doubt that the redevelopment of Croke Park was one of the greatest things related to sport that occurred in this country. Nor can it be disputed that there’s no way it would have been possible without external funding. However, it’s most likely that the profile of Gaelic games – and soccer and rugby for that matter – was crucial to the assistance bequeathed to the old stadium on Jones’ Road. Likewise what is now known as the Aviva Stadium.
The thing is, while all of the above was transpiring, Morton Stadium in Santry – one of the iconic athletics venues in the country – was allowed fade from the landscape. And therein, I suspect, is the crux of what the 1984 Olympian was getting at. Or at least the hope would be that such was the case.
Obviously, participants in and supporters of given sports will vehemently defend same. Exactly that led to some lively debate on my Facebook page when the link containing Kiernan’s views was shared. Taken in the right spirit, differing opinions are no bad thing at all. Indeed, it was only on getting a broader view of the situation that the realisation set in that – in certain sports at least – a level playing field is often beyond the reach of competitors.
Anybody who perused previous offerings on these pages pertaining to athletics will know that yours truly has reason to feel an especial link with the local club. It has often been stated here before that – outside of tennis – long distance running must be considered one of the most gruelling pursuits going.
Thus, while it does irk me that he seems to have an undue hang up about the GAA, pontificating in an attempt to over simply Kiernan’s – or any athletes – efforts in pursuance of excellence in their chosen sport is both unpalatable and misunderstanding of the effort that all sports people – regardless of their chosen code – put in.
Before anyone mounts high horses or steeds of any kind, yes I did say that, in my view, Jerry was talking thrash. That was only, however, in respect of his assertion that the GAA shouldn’t get any funding. What it also did, mind you, was afford a bit of focus to the manner in which some other sports do not get the backing they’re due.
Mention was given before to the feeling that the expertise and excellence of boxing coach Billy Walsh wasn’t appreciated as it should be. Similar sentiments can surely be applied to athletics. All of which is more than a little disheartening and bewildering when a bit of thought is applied to the situation.
Remember, some of the greatest sporting achievements on the world stage in the history of this country have happened in athletics. As other sports also have, the deeds of people like John Treacy, Eamonn Coghlan, Catherina McKiernan, Sonia O’Sullivan and in more recent times Fionnuala Britton and Rob Heffernan have lifted the spirits of the nation. That’s not to knock our heroes and heroines – of yesteryear and present – in areas such as pugilism and cycling.
Rather, the above examples were cited merely to illustrate how athletics very often doesn’t attain the airing or – more importantly – the material backing which it merits. So, with that in mind, hope would be that, Jerry’s comments may prompt those in a position to do so to give athletics what it deserves.
Confidence – hopefully not misguided – abounds that, if prompted, those who can would make a better fist of things than those in charge of sports funding across the water. David Walsh of the Sunday Times has written extensively recently about how basketball over there – with reportedly 200,000 participants – receives little or no funding at all.
Numbers participating in athletics – even in my own locality – seem to be on the up and this has been seen firsthand. Dunboyne AC now has nigh on 700 members, some of whom, incidentally, have ‘crossed over’ from other codes. As ever in these situations, mention will only be given to those known to me personally but all club members are congratulated on their achievements.
Suffice to say, the club have been making waves, both nationally and internationally. Former Meath hurler Paul Gannon has performed with distinction in both the Dublin and Berlin marathons, while Luke Forde excelled in the national colours and others like Rory Kavanagh have also recorded magnificent results.
It’s the time of year when Dunboyne AC host their annual road races. Each year, they see many thousands coming from around the world to the area to participate. That’s only a glimpse at one club, doubtless there are throngs of athletes excelling throughout the country. Let’s hope they’re given the backing they require and deserve. 

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