Hurling minnows oppose radical league change
HURLERS from six counties met with GPA officials in Cavan last night to discuss plans which, if implemented, would reduce the number of inter-county games they play.
Four players from each of the six counties -- Sligo, Longford, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Cavan -- made up the players' delegation to discuss aspects of a hurling development plan, which has been in the pipeline for 15 months.
An outline document has been prepared which could see radical changes to structures in lower tier counties.
Among the suggestions are to reduce the number of league games, the scrapping of the league altogether with a preliminary competition prior to the Lory Meagher championship or an integrated league/Meagher Cup competition.
Both the players and GPA are fearful of the impact that downsizing inter-county competition would have on the game and are mobilising opposition in six of the counties who may be most directly affected.
The thinking behind the proposal is that reducing the number of league games would help the development of club players and widen the hurling base in those counties.
In many northern and some of the fringe Connacht counties, the number of hurling clubs does not reach double figures.
However, many of those counties believe that the proposals are as much to do with cutting costs as widening player-bases.
The GAA's management committee will discuss the proposals on the Friday of Congress when they meet next.
The development plan has been prepared under the chairmanship of Liam O'Neill, who will be the GAA's next president.
O'Neill stressed yesterday: "This hasn't been discussed by management yet. It is not a final document. If the plan does get the go-ahead, it will be fine-tuned. The hurling group will meet again in May and there will be further consultation.
"We're in no hurry with this. All views will be listened to if we do proceed with it. We're a long way from the final draft. We've spent 125 years promoting hurling and we haven't exactly succeeded."
The cost of staging games was highlighted at the recent presentation of the GAA's annual accounts.
It was revealed that, of the 370 games under the control of Central Council in 2010, only 39 were profitable, with only eight or nine of those generating sufficient funds to bankroll the rest of the programme.
There are increasing concerns that hurling has become less cost-efficient in recent years.
In a separate development, Paudie Butler will cease to be the GAA's national hurling coaching co-ordinator from April 14.
Butler was originally appointed on a three-year contract, which was subsequently extended by two further years.
With this new hurling plan in the pipeline, the job specification will be changed.
"It's not as dramatic as it sounds. I would hope to be involved in some capacity when the new structures are settled," said Butler.