The GAA’s National Hurling Manager Martin Fogarty says that thinking outside the box is needed to save the game in non-traditional areas.
Fogarty feels that the establishment of ‘cross-border domestic leagues’ now needs to be considered by county board.
He argues that it would be a huge development for hurling if such an initiative was considered.
“To safeguard hurling, the process of change needs to start with clubs, with the possible adaptation of competitions like the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge (All-Ireland under-17 hurling series across all 32 counties).”
Fogarty, a selector/coach with Brian Cody and Kilkenny senior teams from 2005 to 2013, during which Kilkenny won six All Ireland senior titles was appointed to the role 18 months ago.
He previously managed Kilkenny U21s to two All-Ireland championships in 2003 and 2004.
The establishment of the role of National Hurling Development Manager was one of the recommendations of the Hurling 2020 Committee, appointed by Iar-Uachtarán Liam Ó Néill and chaired by former Tipperary All-Ireland winning manager and player Liam Sheedy.
The role involves working towards the delivery of the Hurling 2020 Committee report findings, a review of county games programmes for club players, and devising other activities and initiatives with the aim of maximising participation across all levels of the game.
“In the traditional counties hurling is strong and with the new provincial formats there is plenty happening this year and an awful lot to look forward to,” Fogarty says.
“But my job is to look across the spectrum and I can see that in the non-traditional counties people are on their knees really.
“They are struggling. Looking for help. Small groups of people doing huge amounts of work. But everything is against them,” Fogarty says.
“Hurling by its very nature is a difficult game to play. When you don’t have the skills, you don’t enjoy it and players lose heart.
“You need to get people back, get coaches who are confident to take on the game. They think it’s a big job; it’s not half as big as they think.
“I have met people I went to College with years ago who were quite good footballers and are teachers now and I’d ask them were they doing any hurling in their schools,” added Fogarty.
“I thought they were messing at first, but they weren’t, when they said they were almost afraid of it because they wouldn’t have a clue.
“These were guys who were quite capable on the field of football, but this game of hurling for them was something way beyond their reach.
“It’s important we alleviate those sorts of fears and show that if you get a crash-course in hurling and get the youngsters togged out and make little games they’ll play away and develop themselves.”
At club level, Fogarty is endorsing under 13 Táin Leagues for counties who have just two and three clubs.
This is ground-breaking recommendation in that Fogarty is encouraging clubs to seek cross-county border competition in a bid to get game time.
“Playing a ‘domestic league’ outside your county would be a huge development, ground breaking, but we need to think outside the box. We need to start with the clubs, encourage competitions like the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge, and try to approach things differently.”
The 2018 Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge, a national hurling series for players, aged 16 and 17 years old, who are not participating in state examinations, begins this week (May 2). This year 47 teams will participate in the competition. 155 games will be provided to over 1,400 players from 32 counties. The Group H (Ulster) stages of the series are already well underway.