None of the four GAA players who will act as grand marshals in this year's St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin is actually from the capital. The identities of the four will be officially announced tomorrow, but the Sunday Tribune understands that one of them is Kilkenny hurler Henry Sheflin. The others – from Munster, Connacht and Ulster – are all current GAA stars.
"No GAA players have been given the honour of being grand marshal before so we thought it was time," said a spokesperson for the parade.
With four grand marshals this year –representing each of the four provinces the inclusion of Sheflin as Leinster candidate means no Dublin GAA stars will be on hand to wave to the crowds, a decision which has angered some in association circles in the capital.
"This is typical of the whole set-up," said former Dublin footballer Keith Barr. "It's not very well thought out, to be honest with you. It's a Dublin parade – it would have been nice to have at least a Dublin man as one of the four grand marshals because there will be a lot of Dublin supporters at the parade. This is what goes on. I believe they [the GAA] takes Dublin for granted. Dublin have filled Croke Park on a number of occasions every year over the last 10, 15, 20 years. So what if Dublin doesn't win the All-Ireland, once they fill Croke Park? The authorities have not recognised the contribution that Dublin footballers have made to the GAA and to the city in general," he said.
However, a spokeswoman for the St Patrick's Day parade defended the decision not to have a Dublin player among the GAA stars acting as grand marshal in the parade.
"A lot of people would say it's the Dublin parade but it's not, it's the national parade. You have people from the four corners of the country in the parade. Dublin's the capital so that is where the national parade is always held."
More than 2,000 performers are expected to take part in the 2009 parade. Despite having to cope with an 8% reduction in funding from €1.3m in 2008 to €1.2m this year, organisers claim the public won't see any sign of cutbacks.
"With less money, things have to be put together differently, but there's almost a sense that people have rallied and want to put their best feet forward," said parade director Corina McGrail. "It's a national day and a national celebration. We have pulled together to stage the same level of event as people would expect."
This year's St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin will begin at 12pm on 17 March.