A NEW model is required to keep small rural clubs alive, according to GAA coaching officer, Peter Casey.
The Lisdoonvarna native, who is living in Fanore for the past 15 years, argues the GAA’s one-size-fits-all approach isn’t suitable for some clubs, particularly those on the periphery in the west, north and east of the county.
The former Clare U-21 hurling selector proposes one model for an urban club with enough playing resources and another for those struggling due to a lack of numbers.
In the first group, he includes the likes of Éire Óg, Sixmilebridge, Doora-Barefield, Ballyea and Clarecastle, who usually can field two teams in most underage grades most years. He places Cratloe, Tulla, Broadford, Ennistymon and Corofin in a middle group that can comfortably field teams in most grades.
Clubs on the Loop Head Peninsula, such as Naomh Eoin and O’Curry’s, and teams in isolated parts of North and East Clare, however, require amalgamations at underage level.
Stressing the need for small clubs to get as many as possible playing at a young age, he proposes they play 11-a-side tournaments against other clubs with similar resources. However, he acknowledges many similarly-sized clubs on the periphery of the county are situated long distances from one another.
While the Clare GAA Board runs 10-a-side competitions at U-15, Casey acknowledges it can be difficult to find time to play these games, as there are so many underage competitions and children are playing different sports.
He admires what two East Clare clubs, Feakle and Killanena, have achieved by managing to play on their own at adult level and together at underage level.
“Feakle and Killanena may be bitter rivals when they play one another but are friends when they play together. I feel there will also be a Feakle and Killanena adult hurling team.
“Kilfenora have about 20 players and have a difficult first round tie against Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the senior football championship. They take great pride and passion in their own club. I don’t think the same pride would be there if they were part of an amalgamation at senior level,” he said.
While he believes all clubs should have enough players to field their own adult team, he accepts amalgamations are necessary and beneficial, particularly at underage level.
Citing the success of Scariff Community College in the Munster Colleges C final this year, he pointed out most of their players had featured with amalgamated teams at underage level.
“Playing with an amalgamated team allows a player to play at a higher level. Normally, you don’t become a Clare hurler or footballer by playing in the C grade. Playing at a higher grade where the game is played at a faster pace makes a big difference to a player. I don’t believe that clubs are amalgamating in order to win a championship,” he said.
Noting underage players from Fanore have to take a 35-minute drive to attend training in Kilfenora for Clann Lir, he said it takes a bigger commitment to attend training for these players.