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GAA

12th Feb 2024

‘We have lost a sense of who we are’ – Westmeath manager pours his heart out over state of hurling on League Sunday show

Lee Costello

Hurling

“We don’t need a hurling evangelist going around spreading the gospel.”

Westmeath manager Joe Fortune poured his heart out on last night’s League Sunday show, when talking about the current state of hurling, particularly in smaller counties.

The spotlight has been on the sport in recent years, as the gap between the very top teams and so-called weaker counties gets bigger and bigger, and participation rates are dropping.

There was also a proposal brought forward to see counties in the lower divisions with not as many clubs like Fermanagh or Louth, to opt out of the league, and use the money saved for resources.

Speaking on the League Sunday Show on RTE, Fortune believes that there is a lack of responsibility at the very top to address the problem.

“If you are going to do something in any capacity at any level, whether you are Louth, Fermanagh, Westmeath, o whatever – you have to do things right,” Fortune said.

“I think for this to work, and for us to improve as Westmeath, or as Dublin, or as Wexford, or whatever it might be, there has to be a sense of humility here on the basis that we have to first realise that there is a problem.

“The problem is, as Liam (Sheedy) said, over the course of the show this evening – he said when he was young he would have walked to training barefoot to get there, and the reason that people are stepping away is because that sense of humility at the top level is not there.

“There is not a realisation that there is a problem. The big thing for me is that there is massive difference between managing an organisation and leading it, and we need leaders to stand up and realise at this level for where Westmeath are at the moment – yes they have been up and down, a hard fought Division Two to get to Division One, you get to the Liam McCarthy, and you get successful days, it means an awful lot to the people of Westmeath, but where is the back up after that?

“Where are the real people on the ground? We don’t need a hurling evangelist going around spreading the gospel with sessions here or there, we need continuity, we need real people on the ground.

“I often wonder if you brought somebody in from a different country with no knowledge of our game whatsoever, how hard it would be too explain, firstly, provincially how we are set up, and second of all, the access to proper facilities and how it is so different from the top seven or eight, down to where I am.

“Rugby has this scenario ‘This is Us’ – have we lost a sense of ‘who are we?’ I think we have lost sense of, it’s about inclusivity, it’s about management, but it’s about leadership too.”

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