What does the GAA’s latest proposal tell us about their policy for hurling development?

What does the GAA’s latest proposal tell us about their policy for hurling development?

GAA share plans to scrap five hurling leagues.

Last week, the Central Council of the GAA proposed the abolishment of league hurling for five of its counties most in jeopardy.

Without any consultation with players or volunteers, Central Council submitted a proposal to suspend the counties of Leitrim, Fermanagh, Cavan, Longford, and Louth from partaking in the 2025 hurling league.

The draft proposal has been met with bewilderment and anger from the players and officials. Former National Hurling Development officer Martin Fogarty sharply condemned it.

“It’s mind-blowing really,” he said. “It’s terrible, I don’t know what feelings I have other than pure torment for the counties involved.”

Shocking National League plans.

The proposal states that any counties with less than five club hurling teams would be removed from the National League and confined to the Lory Meagher Cup, the lowest tier on the hurling pyramid. 

This is despite Louth, one of the counties on the list, currently playing in the Nicky Rackard Cup – the fourth tier of hurling’s hierarchy.

The monies supposedly saved in the process would be diverted towards promoting hurling at a juvenile level through coaching and equipment. However, there is no concrete plan for how this money will actually be spent.

Fogarty added how he believed that the GAA’s proposal could signal a deathly blow to hurling in the selected counties. 

“Hurling in these counties is walked on at the best of times and the efforts that have to be made by clubs and players to play the game, there should be statues built to most of these people,” he said.

“To come in and try to do this and throw them out of Leagues is just absolutely terrible.”

The proposed plan could also put at risk the counties of Mayo, Tyrone, and Carlow, the latter of which will compete in the Liam MacCarthy Cup next year.

Cost cutting set to damage hurling.

In what appears to be a purely cost-cutting measurem Central Council’s recommendation comes on the back of a number of strategic errors made throughout the year.

The proposal strikes at the heart of the GAA’s hypocrisy when examined with reference to ongoing expenditure and the €96.1 million profit the banked in 2022.

For example:

  • €2 million in redevelopment of Gaelic Park in New York which is leased from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Estimated €12 million refurbishment of the Cusack stand and conference suites
  • €95 million for land purchased from Cloniffe College in Drumcondra.
  • Pairc Ui Chaoimh’s debt remains outstanding, to be paid off by 2048. The city’s iconic GAA stadium has become more of a concert venue with the Pairc Ui Rinn taking precedence match purposes.

Add to this the controversy surrounding the Dylan Quirke Foundation and the GAA GO scandal in which just nine of forty championship hurling matches were free to air, it asks the question of where exactly the GAA is at.

For an organisation that is entirely reliant on amateurs and volunteers, it appears to be scarily out of touch. This new proposal to forcefully develop hurling in its most vulnerable counties seems like another own-goal on an ever-growing list.

How can Fermanagh’s Luca McCusker be good enough to represent his country on the international stage but not his county in the National League? 

How can money be spent on a leased property on another continent be a better use then developing juvenile and coaching structures to grow the game within Ireland?

The GAA’s attitude towards hurling’s minnows echoes the Camogie Association that became embroiled in controversy earlier this year, being labelled as disconnected between players and grassroots.

It begs the question. What is the GAA actually doing to develop hurling in its non-traditional bases? 

How can a game granted special cultural heritage status by the UN, situated at the very confluence of Irish sporting and cultural identity only be played at a highly competitive level in arguably eight of Ireland’s 32 counties?

With all of this in mind, is it time for some serious questions to be asked of the current President Larry McCarthy?