Last week’s appointment of Martin Fogarty to the newly-created role of National Hurling Development Manager was one that has been needed for a number of years now.
Fogarty, who was a selector with Kilkenny under Brian Cody between 2005 and 2013, has experience at the highest level of the game and will be a big help to counties trying to make the breakthrough. He will oversee the development of the game in Westmeath, Carlow, Laois, Offaly and Antrim.
As Michael Duignan pointed out at the weekend in his column in the Mail on Sunday, surely Meath should be added to this list in the wake of their Christy Ring Cup success.
This is a good start, but in a few years I would like to see this list of counties expanding. Kildare are making great strides and are getting better every year. Wicklow were in the All-Ireland Under-21 ‘B’ final last year and will look to build on this. And let’s not forget Kerry; they have improved a lot over the last couple of years but cannot afford to rest on their laurels either.
Those three counties all badly need someone to make sure the coaching structures in place stay firm. I would like to see one of Fogarty’s first duties be t0 help the GAA find someone with similar experience to the Kilkenny man and appoint him to look after those counties.
Down, Derry and Roscommon also participated in the Christy Ring Cup this year and it is important that no county is left behind as the GAA tries to improve the standards of the sport nationwide.
Lest we forget about London either, who, while posing a logistical problem for a National Hurling Development Manager, work too hard to have every other county given an unfair coaching advantage ahead of them. All this without diving into the Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cup counties, who need help more than anybody else.
Getting someone as experienced and respected as Fogarty in to help out in five counties is a good start and a commendable action by the GAA, who have proved that they are listening to the Hurling 2020 committee. However, something Croke Park, and the 2020 committee, must remember is there are 32 counties in the country, most of whom need coaching.
While the game needs the likes of Offaly, Laois and Westmeath at their very best, helping some new counties make the breakthrough would be an achievement worth shouting about.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena