There is a prevailing sense among most GAA people that you shouldn’t rock the boat. Well, amongst GAA officials I should say. Especially when that boat is being navigated by someone further up the food chain. It is why you rarely see county boards being critical of Croke Park. I suppose there might be a bit of the old “biting the hand that feeds you” coming in to it too.

Not that this should really bother Fermanagh officials when it comes to Croke Park. We get the crumbs of the crumbs when it comes to investment.

Regular readers of this column will know the feelings that I have about the direction of travel the association is on. The lack of respect afforded to the club player, the growing elitism of the inter county game and the concerted effort being made to create a multi tier championship just three issues of concerns.

It seems very clear that those who run our games have hitched their wagon to the big counties and see them as the future. From a business viewpoint of course this makes perfect sense. In order to generate maximum profit it is the sensible thing to do. That doesn’t however make it the right thing to do. What is frightening, however, is that it is a notion which too often goes unchallenged. And when those of us do challenge it in the media we are seen as crackpots or eternal harbingers of doom.

Before going any further it s really important to get clear what the GAA should be about. Not what it is about in Croke Park. But rather what it is about in clubs up and down the country. And it really is quite simple. When you distil it all down it is so, so simple. It is even there front and centre in the GAA’s rulebook. The association is about the promotion of our games.

Now, we seem to have gotten to the stage where promotion means bums on seats and big days out in Croke Park. That may form a tiny part of it, but the major mechanical chunks of that promotion comes from the coaches we encounter.

Think about it. Sure, you might have glorious memories of supporting your team in Croker but I bet, if you are somebody embedded in the GAA, it is those people who have shaped and inspired you as coaches that you remember most.

It makes the uneven distribution of Games Development funding by the GAA all the more galling. Figures have been doing the rounds in the media in recent weeks. It makes for grim reading for Fermanagh.

Between 2007 and 2017 we received €530,000, least of all 32 counties. In the same time Dublin received €16.63M. Yes, that’s million. Dublin are grossly overfunded in relation to every other county. That’s just the reality.

The GAA made a special case of Dublin in the early 2000s and identified it as an area of special need. It no doubt was. But there are other areas of need, and we are one here in Fermanagh. Games Development funding is for coaching within schools and clubs and people use this fact as a way of saying it cannot be linked to Dublin’s success at Inter county level. This is plainly nonsense. The level of their funding means that Dublin can spend a disproportionate percentage of what it raises itself on county team development. So let’s knock the notion that there is no correlation between development funding and inter county success on the head right now.

But this column is about coaching development, and not inter county teams, so let’s just stick to that. Go back a few years to the “Fermanagh GAA - Review of coaching and games development 2015” which was carried out by Wexford native and long time GAA administrator at Croke Park Micheal Martin.

Mr. Martin came up with six recommendations. Here are three:

3. A cost-analysis should be prepared to outline the required funding required for the full implementation of this plan. This should be used to seek funding from sponsors and from Ulster Council/Croke Park.

4. A football development coordinator should be appointed on a three-year term to deliver the recommendations contained in Section 3 & 4.

6. The county should employ/contract a strength-and-conditioning coach to implement a programme for players from 14 to minor.

Ewan McKenna, a journalist, has brought up this review in a number of articles he has written about the stark differences in funding, citing the fact that when funding was sought by Fermanagh GAA it was not forthcoming from Croke Park.

Here is a tweet from Deirdre Donnelly in reply to a McKenna article posted on twitter:

“A great article, I was coaching officer at the time of the review in @FermanaghGAA we worked so hard & jumped over many obstacles & more, to be be ignored in the end! Without the support of @ClubEirne we would be falling further behind. We don’t need millions to be successful!”

The reality is that despite doing everything correctly in terms of carrying out a review and a proper cost analysis the pot was empty when Fermanagh went looking for additional funding. We are still rock bottom of the pile. Yet we pay for these additional coaching positions ourselves because it is the right thing to do for our future. And, it is working too.

But we should be screaming about this blatant unfairness. Our county board officials should be screaming it from the rooftops.

It gets worse. New GAA Director, Tom Ryan, in a recent interview with Colm Parkinson on the latter’s podcast addressed the issue of Dublin’s funding and the fact other counties don’t get additional funding based on a needs basis. Ryan said:

“There are a few extra counties who have been added to that mix in the last 12 months, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow, Louth, Wexford, there are one or two others.”

It is obvious that those counties have exerted pressure on Croke Park and unsurprisingly a few extra euro has been found in the pot. Fair play to them.

At the start of this column we talked about the fear of rocking the boat. I would go so far as to say that Fermanagh people, by our nature, have taken this fear to the level of phobia.

The GAA is about promoting our games and we can’t shake £50,000 extra from Croke Park to do this? At a time when they are bailing out county boards who can’t balance the books and at a time when they can’t even tell us by how many millions the development of Pairc Ui Chaoimh has gone over budget.

It is laughable and tragic. Here we are in Fermanagh, running our affairs correctly with Club Eirne raising £200,000 a year, and we can’t get any assistance in implementing a plan that an outside official of respected standing in the GAA suggested we carry out.

I will tell you what we are; mugs. And as long as we quietly sit and accept our lot we will continue to be mugs. Rock the boat? We should be capsizing it.