15 Nov Hurling….not just for everyone it seems – by Andrew Breslin
Another lunchtime break, browsing and catching up with all things GAA and suddenly I was hit by a message on Twitter from OurGame.ie – Posting information taken from RTE Sport, I couldn’t believe what I was reading, I must have read it 3 or 4 times, refreshing the twitter feed, just to be sure I was picking it up correctly.
What I read was nothing short of an absolute shambles from the powers that be at Croke Park!!
Removing Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Longford and Louth from the Hurling Leagues and confining them to the Lory Meagher Championship only……The news spread like wildfire over social media!!
When thinking about the current players and my time playing county hurling, it was a gut-wrenching read. However, the most heart-warming thing of it all when reading the comments of various posts, it seems that everyone is dead against it and rightly so.
If these teams are removed from the Hurling League’s, I can guarantee there will absolutely be no appetite to gather for a 3 month period to compete for a Lory Meagher Cup competition or otherwise. The most sickening thought is that it will ultimately lead to the death of the game in these areas, I have no qualms in saying that.
I played county hurling for Fermanagh for 22 years. I know the hardship endured to try and compete with small numbers, to try and improve standards and the want to leave the jersey in a better place when the boots were set on the nails for the final time.
We never shied away from trying to improve and I know that involvement allowed us to develop into better players, better people and fortunately, win a few titles along the way with the county and at club level with Lisbellaw.
I was that young player once, going to watch the county team and saying to myself, I want to be there one day. I did what I could to achieve that dream, even if it was only Fermanagh. That was my county and that was my dream.
Those same dreams will be lost for the future generations should this proposal be passed.
Everyone wants more games, were all crying out for them, particularly in these counties. But by restricting 30+ lads from representing their county, allowing them to try and better themselves against others will ultimately restrict their development. The outcome will only lead to a deterioration in the game across the board in these various counties. And then….EXTINCTION!!
Yes, we are all for saving money where possible and I’ve no doubt there are other ways and means of doing that (did those seats really need replacing, corporate boxes need upgrading etc at Croke Park….?) ? I would also question the figure quoted for costs in preparing those teams.
It is not difficult to know what the players will do if this passes. In Fermanagh I would say 99% of us were/are dual players. The players will turn to Gaelic Football or even other sports to get competitive game time, to get that sense of belonging in a team environment and believe me, it will be nigh on impossible to pull them away for 12 weeks of County Hurling in the middle of it all.
I am honestly not sure who has produced this proposal, was it a member of the CCCC or was it a higher ranking official within the GAA. Listening to the great Martin Fogarty an hour or so later on the OurGame.ie Podcast, he seemed to be questioning along the same lines.
I think whoever has put this on the table, needs to come out and open proper lines of communication. But first, I believe they genuinely need to have a good look at themselves and ask, are they actually representing the true values of the GAA? From my point of view and thankfully from a lot of others, they most definitely are not.
The RTE report notes, during the 3 months (of league), there would be an increased focus placed on hurling development in these counties. More coaches will be provided to schools and clubs with a number of start-up grants available. These ideas or similar have been mooted before, but little has arrived. It is all lip service, but in reality, the aim from the GAA is to try and save money to be utilised elsewhere…. maybe to help pay for the new seats and corporate box upgrades.
Worse still, leaning towards Martin Fogarty again, he was formerly the National Hurling Development Manager in the GAA, the post incidentally is lying vacant at present. We ask why? Or more importantly id be asking, why has Martin Fogarty not been reappointed yet?
That man has done some service and work to aid hurling development in these counties, yet with little money from Croke Park. The GAA talks about increasing the focus on hurling development, yet the one man that was driving it for a number of years was virtually let go. Who is going to manage this hurling development now?
I can not speak highly enough of this man, his involvement with supporting the Tain Leagues, the results and outcomes speak for themselves. He will travel anywhere to try and help; in fact, I last met him up in the Glens of Antrim where I now reside for a coaching session with Cushendun Senior Hurlers a few months back. Ask my new teammates or better still, ask all the other clubs, coaches and players that have luckily been in his presence, they will soon tell you the value he brings to it all.
Martin should be reappointed as soon as possible. He should be the one in the room advising the way forward for the promotion of the game, but unfortunately, he, like the players and some county board officials have never been consulted about this proposal. You would near swear the GAA or CCCC were trying to brush it under the carpet and have it quickly passed at Central Council in December before anyone realises the actual consequences.
Yes, it is going to take money to provide development opportunities, other counties never mind the soo called minnows are crying out for investment in the game. This development however should never come at a cost in terms of removing a Senior County Team. These County players are inspiring the next generation, the same way I was inspired some 30+ years ago.
I aspired to be a county player and I know that there are youngsters out there now aspiring to be the same. These aspirations will not only benefit their current senior clubs in these counties striving to push forward, but the youngsters in the new clubs making their way in the game, striving for the same.
I can speak from experience and say that thanks to that exposure to more games, against soo call stronger opposition, that I and my team-mates got while playing county, our clubs reaped the rewards 10-fold. Standards improved greatly and championships were won. Lisbellaw won both Junior (2008) and Intermediate hurling titles in Ulster (2012) and competed in the Ulster Senior club championship (2013-2018). This was a Fermanagh club competing at the top table in Ulster….an unreal achievement when all is said and done.
Currently in Fermanagh, we have Belleek and Lisnaskea now back playing adult hurling and I know the likes of Belnaleck, Ederney, Enniskillen, Knocks Grattans and Naomh Aodhan are all pushing to make it to the adult grades. I have no doubt that will happen sooner rather than later.
Let us not remove any hopes or dreams these young players have of wanting to pull on the county jersey and instead, invest in their aspirations and invest in their futures across the board.
Ultimately, we have to promote the game instead of chipping away at the base…when the base is weakened, a collapse is inevitable and where will we be then?!
I would rather not think about that catastrophe to be honest!!
‘If you build it, they will come’
By Andrew Breslin
Inter-county career: Fermanagh Hurling team
Current Club: Cushendun Hurling Club, Antrim
Former Clubs: Maguiresbridge GFC & Lisbellaw Hurling Club, both Co. Fermanagh
Coaching: Fermanagh U20 Hurlers / Antrim U-16 Hurlers / Antrim Celtic Challenge Hurlers