"We don’t live in some Ivory tower or some bubble out in the Azores"
The GAA’s Director of Communications has rejected the suggestion that the organisation is out of touch with grassroots members.
It comes following the GAA’s decision to relent to pressure from Kildare GAA and the wider public to allow the county to stage their All Ireland third round qualifier at Newbridge.
They have been forced into a climb-down after originally fixing the game for Croke Park. The Lillywhites were due home advantage having been the first team out of the draw but the GAA claimed health and safety concerns prevented them from playing at St Conleth’s Park.
On Wednesday the GAA flip flopped and announced that the game could be held in Newbridge in front of a crowd of 8,200, it came in stark contrast to the GAA’s earlier assertion that the game would not be moving.
After a prominent public campaign which included the hashtag #NewbridgeOrNowhere trending on twitter for over 24 hours and an appearance on the 6:1 News by Kildare manager Cian O’Neill and a widely circulated interview with KFM in which he was highly critical of the GAA.
Alan Milton was a guest on Off The Ball and he flatly rejected the suggestion that the groundswell of support influenced the GAA’s decision and strongly hit back at suggestions the top brass have lost touch with members:
“When I hang up this phone now I’m going to watch Fingallians v round Towers in a division 2 game, most of my co-workers in Croke Park are the same, we’re all involved in clubs.
“We don’t live in some Ivory tower or some bubble out in the Azores where we’re not connected with the real people, we are the real people.
“I’ve come from an under 9 camogie session tonight, there’s a fallacy out there and a narrative that I find hard to understand and it needs to be challenged, you could not run an organisation on some of the tripe that appears on social media.”
“Some of it well constructed and some of it genuine and heartfelt and some of it is built on a house of cards, it’s not built on fact, it’s not informed. You couldn’t possibly run an organisation on that.
“I think what was a game changer was Cian O’Neill felt sufficiently strong enough to go on national TV, that’s not a common occurrence and it probably mobilised people and rallied people and lifted things up an octave or two.
“Our dealings were with the volunteer members of Kildare county committee over the last few days and we worked with them to bring a resolution to this fact.
“My parting shot to you would be, if the GAA is so transfixed with finance why are 65% of our games loss making? Why don’t we take revenue from bookmakers? Why don’t we have gambling and alcohol sponsors?
“I think some of the narrative is out of control, the GAA is not run by a bunch of mavericks, most of them are elected to run it, they’re accountable and answerable to every county board who are in turn answerable to clubs.
“If there is an issue and there very obviously was in this instance and there seems to be lots of other issues, I think we have 750,000 members you can have thousands of differing opinions and that’s the way it should be, it keeps people in Croke Park real and it keeps us grounded.”