Wednesday 17 January 2018

Flight from rural areas threatens survival of GAA clubs

Majella O'Sullivan

This year only 37pc of clubs were able to field a 15-a-side team at minor level due to emigration

THE country's most successful football county plans to appoint an employment officer to help battle the tide of emigration and ensure the future of many small clubs.

Kerry County Board is to lobby to attract jobs to rural areas and also to play a more active role in supporting men who are thinking of setting up their own business.

The plans are among the recommendations in a report commissioned by Kerry County Board on countering rural depopulation, which is threatening the survival of many smaller clubs in the county.

The report revealed that 23 of the 76 clubs in the county -- or 34pc -- have an average of fewer than eight boys per class in their local primary schools.

Already many clubs in the county have had to amalgamate to field underage teams and it is feared this will become increasingly common in future.

It also found that this year only 37pc of clubs were able to field a 15-a-side team at minor level due to emigration.

This compares with 44pc in 2008, while in 1998, 69pc of clubs had enough for a full complement of minor players. The figures represent a drop of 54pc in just 13 years.

Co-author of the report Joseph McCrohan, who chaired the committee that examined rural depopulation in Kerry, said the findings of the report should be a wake-up call to GAA county boards all over Ireland.

"We're calling on the rest of the western seaboard counties to do the same," Mr Crohan told the Irish Independent.

"The problem is not in the number of boys being born -- there are plenty boys born in Kerry each year -- but what's happening is that rural areas are becoming more depopulated because there aren't enough jobs there."

As a result, he says clubs in densely populated areas have so many players to choose from that many don't even get a game whereas the rural areas are struggling to field underage teams.

The report recommends that the GAA makes job creation in rural areas a priority and that club members should become active on local development organisations.

Irish Independent

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