The club scene matters the most
THE INTENSITY of Gaelic games has increased over the years. The games have developed so much, even down to club, that it has now become almost a twelve-month sport, with the inter-county scene getting under way in January, while the club activity brings it right through to December.
The passion for hurling and football continues unabated. While we would like to see more success on the inter-county scene, one can look forward to the commencement of the county championships in two weeks' time when the football campaigns in the respective grades get under way.
That love of hurling and football will now pass down to club level over the coming months. Having covered the domestic scene for far longer than I care to remember, one cannot get away from the passion and loyalty that the club brings to the parish, which is best described as the grassroots of the G.A.A.
The club scene is very different now. They have been preparing with the All-County Leagues, while the championships are now on a group basis, ensuring that the destination of clubs will be carried right through the summer months into October when the county final stages will be reached.
While other sports will lament the struggle they face at club level, the G.A.A. has thrived, helped by its parish roots. Along with quality pitches and clubhouses, they provide facilities for players from under-age right through to adult, while also catering for camogie and ladies' football, with the centres being a hive of parish activity throughout each month of the year.
The club game is developing in Wexford. The numbers are big, at under-age, adults and women's, which gives them a real connect with the Association. The club has created incredible facilities in each and every parish, with the result that the County Board is now able to bring games in all grades to rural venues.
This was a major factor in Wexford having increased gate receipts last year. Excellent crowds made their way to the rural venues as it's rural Ireland which is the heartbeat of the G.A.A. This created incredible interest and having looked at the opening round fixtures commencing on April 19, the rural club pitches will be a hive of activity over the entire weekend.
The best periods of my long number of years covering the G.A.A. scene have been attending the club games, which brings home what the G.A.A. is all about. One can see Under-12 and Under-14 players show their skills much to the delight of parents and supporters on the sideline, to the more competitive adult grades, where one can witness the pride of the parish at stake.
Personally it's a hugely-exciting time once the club championship scene gets under way. One has witnessed some excellent Minor games over recent weeks. You never know what will happen in most games, and while many adult games will have a favourite's tag attached to them, there are lots of exciting weekends ahead.
As we move through the month of April, things will really start to take shape, with the race for county final day throwing up some enthralling hurling and football over the coming months.
Let's hope the weather becomes a little more favourable which would help to see supporters flock to rural venues to drive on their local players. Local anticipation will heighten over the coming weeks and we should be able to look forward to many outstanding games.
MODEL COUNTY DRAW
Clubs may be busy preparing for the opening round championship games, but they also have a vital fundraiser under way with the assistance of Wexford G.A.A. Board in the Model County Draw.
This is a long-standing fundraiser which helps clubs to prepare for the year while making a major contribution towards them meeting their financial costs. It's also a much-needed fundraiser for the County Board to go towards the costs of servicing the various inter-county sides.
These are difficult economic times but the loyal supporters will continue to back the clubs.