Tuesday February 08 2011
Opposition is expected in counties who are to be asked to disband their teams for some or all of the national hurling leagues as part of a drive to increase the numbers playing the game.
The National Coaching and Games Development Committee, chaired by GAA presidential candidate Liam O’Neill, has come up with a radical plan to increase participation in hurling.
It involves splitting the counties into four tiers, based on the playing base and success — or lack of it — that they currently enjoy.
Counties in the lowest tier will be given options as to how to shorten their inter-county season, so more resources can be put into developing clubs and club players and providing a stronger base.
It is understood that the proposals have been discussed by the GAA’s Management Committee and were due to go before Central Council on Saturday. However, further time for more discussion and explanation to counties which may be affected has now been allowed.
The National Coaching and Games Development Committee, which also includes former players John Fenton (Cork) and Sean Silke (Galway), produced the report after consultation with counties and feedback from the National Hurling Forum in 2009.
The committee has concluded that the time and money spent by certain counties in fielding inter-county teams in league competition would be better served being diverted into club activity and attempting to grow that part of the game.
The report gives a breakdown about how the tiers could be established.
The top tier includes all the established hurling counties.
Antrim, Carlow, Kerry, Kildare and Laois constitute tier two. Armagh, Derry, Donegal, Down, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon, Wicklow and Tyrone comprise tier three, while Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan and Sligo are in tier four.
However, these designations are not set in stone and counties can apply to be part of whatever tier they feel would suit their profile best.
Tier four teams would be asked to consider a much shorter inter-county season; three proposals have been put forward to achieve this.
One is a reduction in number of league games.
Another is non-participation in the league, with teams being compensated by a preliminary competition prior to the Lory Meagher championship.
The final suggestion is to integrate a league with the Lory Meagher competition.
Some of the counties being targeted play only a handful of club games and the committee envisage a future with regional leagues involving more clubs from a variety of counties. These counties wouldn’t participate in the National League.
Tier three counties would have a twinning arrangement with tier one counties, something that has already worked well through a GPA scheme in the past.
The establishment of a hurling centre of excellence is also proposed, with third-level institutes in the southern half of the country the most likely venues.
This would provide educational resource material specifically geared to hurling; tier two counties would have priority to access this.
The plan aims to give every child in the country the opportunity to hurl, improve standards and, above all, provide more club hurling fixtures across the board.
However, managers working in some of the weaker hurling counties are alarmed at the proposals.
Monaghan boss Frank Brady has voiced his concerns and believes he is speaking for a number of others facing the same predicament.
“It will lead to far too many meaningless club games,” he predicted. “A county hurling team in any county gives it status. If they are not playing in the National Leagues, it will demean hurling further in that county,” he warned.
The potential cost of implementing the plan is in the region of €280,000, with €120,000 being pumped into tier four counties for development.
– Colm Keys