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Clare football goes under the microscope

COACHING structures within the county, the management of the various development squads, the participation of the various schools within the county in colleges’ competition and the link-up between adult and underage structures in the county, are just some of the areas to be examined by a special committee being set up to look at the state of Clare football.

This was the outcome of a special county board meeting held on Tuesday night at the West County Hotel, Ennis.

The new committee will be headed by board chairman Michael O’Neill and will include fellow officers Johnnie Hill (vice-chairman), Tom Downes (central council delegate), PJ McGuane (Munster Council delegate) and Bernard Keane (treasurer) together with “at least three more” to be appointed by the chairman.

“Anyone that wants to make a submission will be welcome to come to us with their proposals and we will come back here to another meeting and discuss all your suggestions,” the chairman told Tuesday’s meeting. Miltown’s Noel Walsh told the meeting, “the inter-county scene is not as bad as some suggest. There is quite an amount of potential there. With regard to the inter-county management, I would prefer a man from inside the county who would have a passionate belief in Clare football to manage our county team,” he said, before suggesting that the members of the football advisory committee be asked to make recommendations.

Michael Curtin (O’Curry’s) suggested that the committee go back to fundamentals. “We must look at our coaching policies and how they are applied. Do we get value for money,” he asked.

“What is our games promotion like? Clare GAA is making a considerable investment and are we getting value for money? We are jumping the gun if we just talk about the senior county team. Until such a time as we sit down and develop a proper policy, we are wasting our time. Who is looking after the coaches with the clubs and schools? What is the point in sending a coach to a school to babysit?” he continued.

Gabriel Keating (Naomh Eoin) spoke about the decision to appoint the football advisory committee and suggested that this committee had a role to play now.

“There are some good players not playing for the county and this is an issue we must address. Clubs will have to stand up and speak and we have time on our side,” he said.

Board chairman Michael O’Neill said, “We are at a crossroads and we must tackle it but it’s not all doom and gloom”. Responding to Keating’s suggestion that the advisory committee should be given a role, the chairman said that committee was in place five or six years ago.

The chairman also told the delegates that “a number of Clare colleges normally play in B or C grades in Munster. This year we tried to amalgamate some colleges to get them playing Division 1 football and, while we pushed it hard, it wasn’t allowed but we expect that it will happen next year.”

Kilmurry-Ibrickane chairman Ger Talty agreed that appointing a manager is not the most important issue. “We need to start developing players at a younger age. There are a lot of talented players out there who are not joining the senior squad. A lot of players are not making it to senior level. Is our plan right?” he asked. Doonbeg’s Willie Nolan asked that when management is in place they tune in with development at Bord na nÓg. “There are two elements to this,” former games promotion officer with Clare GAA, James Murrihy told the meeting. “The coaching of kids within clubs from U-8 upwards and the development squads and where they go in the county. How do we get players to reach their full potential at 25 and 26?

“There is nothing in place to develop players from 18 to 23 and 24 years of age. Look at the service David Russell and Conor Whelan have given Clare football. How do we replace them?” he asked.

Kilmihil’s Gerry O’Neill suggested that the committee look at the structures in other counties and model a plan on that.

The debate concluded with the chairman confirming that another meeting, in three or four weeks time, would return to the issue. “Anyone with any suggestions, please bring them to us,” he said.

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