€2m debt at crux of issue
Published 15/06/2011 | 05:00
Hurling in Offaly exists within a small enclave around the town of Birr in the south of the county.
In GAA terms, the county is split across the middle, with the north and east of the county, around the towns of Tullamore and Edenderry, predominantly football.
There are 44 registered GAA clubs in Offaly but 70pc would be football orientated.
Yet Offaly hurling has punched well above its weight.
All the main hurling clubs in the county are within a 10-mile radius of Birr. From Coolderry to Drumcullen, Seir Kieran to St Rynagh's, Killoughey-Kilcormac to Lusmagh and Carrig Riverstown and Kinnity to the stronghold of Birr itself, the focus on hurling is concentrated close to the border areas near Tipperary, Laois and Galway.
It was west Cork-born Brother Denis Minehane, based in the local Presentation Brothers School in Birr, who was the chief influence on the hurling revival in Offaly which spawned a couple of generations of top-class hurlers to win All-Ireland titles in 1981, '85, 1994 and '98.
Only one member of those four starting teams, Tullamore's Kevin Martin, could be classed as representative of the north/east section of the county.
The rest were from that southern pocket around Birr.
The crux of the issue with the hurling people of Offaly is the concentration of games in Tullamore since the €7.2m development which was completed in 2006.
The majority of club championship matches and all of Offaly's county games are played there as the board focus on clearing the estimated €2m debt.
Yet hurling teams feel that when it comes to training in O'Connor Park, the welcome is not what it always should be.
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"They don't want to train and they have no pride in their jersey. All the hurlers want to do is represent their county with pride and they were locked out of O'Connor Park.
"I have sympathy for the financial people in Offaly. They have limited finances and they are trying to spread it out but the board should be about promotion of the games and winning All-Irelands. As far as I can see at the moment we are interested in paying off a debt and running off our championships as quickly as we can. Get the county teams beaten nice and early, play all our fixtures and get them all into O'Connor Park -- that is the start and finish of our ambition at the moment.
"Tipperary can spend a million on their senior team, Dublin cans spend millions on their teams. Offaly can't produce a couple of dozen new sliotars for a training session. How can that be equity?
"There are much more issues at work here than just what went on last Saturday."
The Offaly County Board said last night that they would "issue a full and frank response in relation to the issues currently in the public domain when and only when we complete our current Liam MacCarthy Cup campaign."