THE decision of a small number of clubs to deny their players the opportunity to wear the county jersey was “regrettable” and “let down their club and their county”, Bord na nÓg chairman Seán O’Halloran told delegates attending the annual convention.
He was optimistic about the performances of the county’s underage teams and that with a new approach to the whole development squad system, “we can look forward in confidence to the years to come”.
O’Halloran reminded delegates that he had made many suggestions on how to improve the present structure.
“As a consequence of the large volume of goodwill that was generated by the Munster and All-Ireland U-21 success, we are in the process of formulating a plan with clearly defined aims and objectives to improve the squad system. We will be encouraging all strands of the association, clubs, schools county board and Bord na nÓg to buy into the ethos as it will be of enormous benefit to clubs, players as well as producing competitive county underage teams going forward.”
O’Halloran added that the system will operate on a regional basis, similar to that already in place at U-12 and U-13 levels. “It is hoped to attract suitable club people who will be coached to a level specific to their role in the squad system and thereby act as a catalyst to creating better club coaching structures side by side with producing a better county player.
“Games development officers, in conjunction with coaching and games, will obviously have a big imput but the plan will stand or fall on the support structure that will be forthcoming from the county board, Bord na nÓg and the clubs,” he said.
He acknowledged Seán McMahon, Jamesie O’Connor, Jim McInerney and Brian Quinn as household names in hurling who have volunteered their talents to steer this project.
“The aim is to facilitate newly-trained coaching personnel, embracing the present team mentors who have given Trojan service to the board and ensure that all our energies are focused on the development of our young players.”
“A review of the happenings of 2009 has to be looked at in the context of the demographic position of our clubs with due consideration given to the economic environment in which we find ourselves. Both impinge on our growth and development and consequently determine the performances of our club and county teams.
“The GAA has proved itself to be a very resilient organisation over the past 125 years and the unflinching desire of its members to maintain the legacy of Michael Cusack will ensure that our games will survive and prosper even in the present difficult times,” said the chairman.
He continued that the plight of clubs where the population has had an affect on playing numbers has been addressed in recent years by way of assistance, amalgamations and isolated players.
“However, we must always strive for a more equitable structure system to maintain a competitive element in our competitions while, at the same time, preserving the identity and ethos of the club. A more in-depth analysis of ages and playing numbers in the preparation of structures would help alleviate some of these problems.”
The overloading of the fixtures schedule is also a matter of concert to clubs he added. “One wonders if our calendar is becoming overcrowded with too many games for some age groups with due consideration for school, county and dual players. “The U-15 championship in its present location, played in the middle of the U-16 and minor championships, needs to be addressed as it is not providing the necessary competition to enhance the development of this particular age group.”
O’Halloran told the meeting that the performance of underage teams is very encouraging and he paid tribute to all of the mentors involved with the teams. He also acknowledged the role of the county’s games officers.
“The popularity of the go-games continue to grow and the skill culture that they encourage has been embraced b y our clubs in a positive manner. One wonders if the skill culture should be considered at U-12 and U-13 where winning at all costs seems to be dominating in some clubs.”
He looked forward to the launch in 2010 of the history of Bord na nÓg hurling and football in Clare.
“I see this as a fitting tribute to all who have been involved in the promotion of our games during the 50 year existence of the board”.
Concluding, he said it is his wish that Clare’s U-21 All-Ireland win will spark a renaissance of interest in underage hurling.