The thorny issue of Dublin's funding doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away any time soon.

The footballers strolled into the All-Ireland final this month at an absolute canter, before pulling away from Mayo in the second half of the decider to claim a sixth title in a row.

The five-point margin wasn't particularly galling - Mayo lost to Kerry in 2004 by eight points and by 13 in 2006 - and they had chances in that second half to keep the game closer heading into the last few minutes.

The victory meant that Dublin matched the record of the Kerry team of 1975-1986, who also had players who emerged from the period with eight All-Ireland medals. While it took the men from the Kingdom 12 seasons, it's taken the Dubs just 10.


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So what happens next? Do we wait for the Dublin flame to burn out, and if not, what is the ultimate aim of any spending that does take place in other counties?

Is this simply about making Dublin worse, or a genuine desire to reform football and get all counties up to a decent standard?

Provincial Championship

Even the most loyal of Blues supporters can’t suggest that the joy derived from victories in the Leinster championship nowadays compare with the elation of the period up to the late 2000s.

Dublin have won 16 provincial championships in this century, one ahead of Kerry, who have 15. That system is clearly broken, and a once-in-85-years Tipperary victory this year doesn't hide the fact that Munster isn't working either.

In fact, the men from the Kingdom have more Munster football titles than Kilkenny have Leinster hurling ones, so it's clear that more general reform of the football championship needs to be seriously looked at.

The introduction of the Tailteann Cup this year was delayed owing to Covid-19 but it will provide a realistic target for the so-called 'weaker' counties in the game.

The news this month that the 2021 final won't share Croke Park on All-Ireland football final day is perhaps indicative of what type of billing it might have going forward.

Make Leinster Great Again

Back to the provinces, we're regularly reminded of a 'golden era' of Leinster football when almost all of the counties felt that they could lift the Delaney Cup.

Between 1997 and 2004, six counties won a Leinster championship. The competition then was what Ulster is now - truly unpredictable.

One thing that was slightly easier to foretell though was that the captain of the representative from the eastern champion was unlikely to be walking up the steps of the Hogan come the third Sunday in September.

Laois and Westmeath failed to even reach the All-Ireland semi-final in 2003 and 2004, never mind winning the thing, while Dublin, Kildare (2000) and Offaly all fell at the last four stage.

The Lilywhites did reach the final in 1998, and looked impressive in the first half against Galway, but ultimately were overawed in the end.

While Meath, having won the All-Ireland in 1996, repeated the feat three years later - that victory in 1999 was the last time the Royals lifted Sam.

Between that year and 2011, only one county from the province reached the All-Ireland final when Seán Boylan's side were beaten by Galway in 2001.

What is the aim?

So it depends what these reforms are looking to achieve. If we want a return of the cracking, competitive, interesting Leinster football championship of the past, then by all means split Dublin. Or take the Boys in Blue out of the competition altogether, as some have suggested, with an ever decreasing sense of mirth.

But if we want the Leinster champions to run the best of the other provinces close, then we need to consider the health of football in the province as a whole.

Realistically, it needs to be asked whether it's possible to make Longford, Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford, Westmeath, Laois, Kilkenny or Louth into Sam Maguire contenders - it seems an insincere target for 2021, and an unrealistic aim, no matter what happens in the next decade, for 2031.

Pat Gilroy received a bit of a backlash on Twitter for his obviously tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Cork and Kerry should enter a combined team into the football championship.

They're "sacred cows" as the Dublin 2011 All-Ireland winning manager pointed out, and that's true. Both have won All-Irelands since 2010 and, as such, it would be a very difficult sell to make, and it would be a massive kneejerk reaction.

But obviously that isn't where Gilroy - or anyone else for that matter - would start. Is that true of some of the counties in Leinster though?

When did it ever happen before?

Let's start with the easiest one. Kilkenny don't enter a team in the senior football championships - is reform going to make them into a force? Is it worth Kilkenny GAA's time to get a county team going only to become an also ran in both the provincial and All-Ireland championships, particularly when the county sits atop of the hurling roll of honour in both?

Wicklow didn't reach a Leinster final in the entirety of the 20th century, although a Bray Emmets side did represent Dublin, and win the All-Ireland in 1902, having entered the previous year's Dublin SFC.

Longford, Carlow and Westmeath have only won provincial title each, while Laois have one in the last 75 years and Wexford have one in the last 95 years.

Wexford and Wicklow have one Leinster title between them since 1925

Surely the first step to make Leinster more interesting would be to have Laois and Offaly playing together, or Wexford and Wicklow? What about footballers in Kilkenny? Surely playing combined with Carlow and Wexford would be better than not playing at all?

If we want to spread Gaelic football, and give children growing up outside the traditional counties the realistic dream of winning the All-Ireland, then amalgamations of smaller counties should come before splits of big ones.


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Would splitting Dublin make Wicklow or Longford competitive all of a sudden?

Similarly, will Meath, Kildare, Fingal, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin and Dublin City be able to deal with the Mayos, Kerrys and Donegals of this world? Unlikely.

On top of that, amalgamations of counties mean we can still retain the "Dublin versus the rest" or the "jackeen versus culchie" narrative, or whatever you're having yourself.

Split Dublin

The splitting Dublin in half (or in thirds, fifths or tenths) argument makes sense if you believe that identity means nothing to anyone. For all the amateur ethos of the association, it still needs money to function and Dublin, owing to its massive population, provides bums on seats.

So the "spread the funding" argument will be undermined if the funding pot is reduced by a fall in attendees at these games.

Granted, an uncompetitive championship will similarly lead (and has led) to a fall in attendances. But it's a guarantee that you'll have more at a Leinster football final between Dublin and Kildare or Dublin and Meath than you would have it it was any sort of segment of Dublin versus any of the other counties in the province.

Whatever you think about think about the whole debate, you'll do well to sell Fingal versus Longford, or Westmeath against West Dublin to anyone.

Louth and Longford have been in the Leinster wilderness for decades

Worse than that, you could be faced with the nightmare situation of Dublin South versus Dublin North in perpetuity. What would such a scenario do for football in the other Leinster counties?

And if the sincere aim is to split the bigger counties before merging smaller ones, then how long before Cork, in particular, is also talked about?

While success has been limited in the southern capital over the last 15 years, the playing numbers there are big.

If certain counties are rightly considered "sacred cows", then surely Dublin are to be included amongst those.

So while there's plenty of scope for proper reform, from moving more Dublin games out of Croke Park to a redistribution of funding away from the capital and into neighbouring counties, the idea of splitting Dublin should be finally put to bed for once and for all.