The National Hurling Development Plan aims to increase the amount of people playing hurling in weaker counties, so that counties such as Longford can field competitive teams at both club and inter county level.
While it remains to be seen if Longford hurlers will enter a team in this year’s league, the fact it is even a possibility they could withdraw is an insight into the current state of hurling.
Last year, Cavan were at a similar crossroads and eventually withdrew from the National League because they did not have the numbers.
In what can be said about the current Longford system, Cavan hurling suffered from a lack of structure. “Hurling in footballing counties cannot be a choice. Hurling has to be worked into the schedule. This year we have a week-on, week-off structure for fixtures. Hurling one week, football the next. This prevents players from not playing simply because of other GAA commitments; that should never be the case at under-age level,” Cavan’s Hurling Development officer, Eoin Morrissey told the Leader.
It is possible Longford under-age will follow the example set by Cavan last year when they established their under-age development model. A club feeder model was introduced where players from existing football clubs and areas fed into new, or amalgamated clubs. They sought to get at least one coaching mentor from each feeder club to come on board with the new entities.
“This is a crutch system to springboard new hurling teams to become fully fledged GAA clubs in the future but right now this is about getting kids playing hurling as soon as possible,” Eoin said.
So far the indications are positive. At under 8s, 10s and 12s, there are 10 teams competing. This drops to 5 for under 14s and up, indicating that if children are not introduced to hurling at a young age, they are unlikely to play later.
In the long run, it is hoped some of the clubs amalgamating under this system will be in a position to branch out with their own club.
For more on this story, see this week’s Longford Leader.