Cavan ponder pulling hurlers out of league
CAVAN'S hurlers have sought an urgent meeting with their executive ahead of this week's county convention amid fears that they are going to pull them out of the National League.
Their fears have been sparked off by the comments of county secretary Liam McCabe in his annual report to Thursday's convention, in which he asks: "Has the time come for us to withdraw the senior hurling team from the Allianz National Hurling League and Lory Meagher?"
There is even speculation locally that the Cavan management committee may formally table a motion to that effect at this week's convention. McCabe's report notes that the Breffni County doesn't currently have an U-21 or minor team to feed into the current senior panel.
"Is it time to call a halt and put some of the expenses incurred to underage hurling, so we have the structures in place to have a minor and U-21 team coming through?" he asks.
"We have a good club structure, but these clubs need funding to survive and maybe this is the way forward."
McCabe's revelation that "we at county board level have discussed this subject and are having a meeting with the (GAA) president and Ard Stiurthoir to discuss the plight of hurling in Cavan," has particularly incensed the county's players, who feel they have not been consulted ahead of such radical proposals.
McCabe's comments saw local hurling interests call an emergency meeting in the Kilmore Hotel last Sunday night which was attended by over 30 people, including county senior players. The board has agreed to meet them ahead of Thursday's convention, at which the hurling lobby will be seeking a detailed plan on how the board intends improving the sport in the long term.
And hurling supporters in Cavan are also seeking the reinstatement of the county hurling board, which was disbanded earlier this year.
"We are very disillusioned that Cavan County Board have engaged in discussions with Croke Park, but had no formal contact with us about any of this," said Mark McEntee, who has played for the county for the last 10 years. "But this is not just about Cavan hurling -- this is about all of the weaker counties in Ulster hurling. What exactly is Croke Park's plan for all of us?
"There are all these rumours going around but no one is telling us anything. Surely, as players, we should have a say in the future development of hurling in our counties, where there is some great work being done at underage level."
The alarm bells went off for many of those counties last September when the national director of hurling, Paudie Butler, confirmed that Croke Park is seriously contemplating the notion of creating a 'fifth hurling province'.
This proposes ending their National League participation and replacing it with extended cross-county club competitions, and to concentrate support on underage development instead.
Nothing has been agreed formally -- the plan has not even been discussed yet by Central Council -- but the counties involved are Sligo, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Louth and Monaghan, and possibly also Tyrone.
Butler has admitted he thinks this will eventually happen, but he has warned: "We have to be careful that we do the right thing now. Hurling people don't want to be tricked into something that is cost-saving for football. We don't undermine hurling now that it has a foothold."
"Essentially they're hoping to just contain our inter-county season to one month a year, when we'd play in the Lory Meagher and Nicky Rackard, to save the money they're spending on our current training," remarked one player from one of the weaker counties yesterday.
"It's hard to see exactly what that would do to improve our hurling standards, except to save money for the county board. And what guarantees are there that those savings will then be invested properly in underage development?"
Ironically, Cavan secretary Liam McCabe actually praises their Division 4 hurlers and team management in this week's report "for their commitment to hurling in 2010".
"I would like to point out that the county senior hurlers took a lot of cuts this year regarding gear and meals and I thank them for that," he said.
"They were very keen to help the county board in these difficult times. I am not trying to get rid of hurling but merely trying to get it right for the future."