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21st Nov 2023

Pat Spillane backs GAA’s proposals to take five counties out of National Hurling League

Niall McIntyre

Pat Spillane believes that the GAA would be making the correct decision were they to drop Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Louth, and Longford from the National Hurling League.

The GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee made the recommendation last week that any county with less than five adult hurling teams should be banished from the National Hurling League, with the idea being that the proposed development would come into play from 2025 onwards.

If the proposal was to be adapted by Central Council in December, it would mean that rather than having a six month inter-county season, the affected-counties would instead have a three month season.

The recommendation was made on the back of a lack of progress in terms of increasing adult participation in hurling in those counties over the last few years.

So instead of funding the League campaigns of those counties, this had a cumulative cost of €863,000 this year, packages would be put in place which would be focused on developing hurling at grass-roots level in those counties.

On Tuesday morning, the Fermanagh county board issued a statement expressing their ‘shock and disappointment’ at the CCCC’s proposals.

“Fermanagh GAA wish to put on record of our shock and disappointment at the proposals,” it read.

We do not concur that we were appropriately consulted on a proposal of this magnitude to remove Fermanagh from the Allianz Hurling League prior to them being presented at the Ard Chomhairle meeting of 4 November.

“Fermanagh GAA have worked extremely hard with our small base of volunteers over the last number of years to develop sustainable hurling structures to allow the game to grow and flourish,” it read.

Writing in his Irish Independent column, Spillane backed the GAA’s proposals. He used the Waterford footballers as an example, referring to the process of fielding inter-county teams in some counties as ‘nothing more than a paper-ticking exercise.’

The weaker counties are up in arms, but in this case, the GAA might have a point.

Action from Fermanagh’s 2022 Division 3B National Hurling League final win over Longford.

The harsh reality is that fielding senior county teams in hurling is nothing more than a paper-ticking exercise in many counties. Worse still, it is wasting scarce resources. Frankly, it is unsustainable.

There is an old proverb about solving the problems of world hunger, which I remember from my days as a geography teacher: ‘Give me a fish and feed me for a day, teach me to fish and feed me for life.’

The future of hurling in weaker counties lies in investing and coaching at underage level, not in wasting money by fielding a senior inter-county team. The GAA need to be brave and accept this initiative regardless of the noise,” Spillane said.

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