'Carlow will have no inter-county teams if slump continues'
CARLOW chairman Michael Meaney has admitted that the county is facing a serious football crisis if they cannot address their underage problems.
Their U-21s suffered another mortifying Leinster football championship mauling on Wednesday when they managed to score only three points – all frees – to Dublin's 2-28. Last year, their U-21s mustered just 0-2 when the Dubs' young guns racked up 4-27.
With their seniors joint-bottom of Division 4, and without star player Brendan Murphy because he is heading abroad on a tour of duty with the army in May, football morale in the county is particularly low.
Meaney said it was unfair to criticise the youngsters who lined out this week because they had tried their best, while some of their peers didn't even bother.
"In the midst of all of this, there's 26 or 27 fellas who put in a great effort since January; their commitment and effort has to be recognised," said Meaney.
"But there was probably another 10 players we were without – either because they seem to think they're too good to play for Carlow or were afraid to play Dublin."
Carlow succeeded in getting seeding (based on the 2011 minor standings) brought into the Leinster U-21 FC after last year's drubbing by the Dubs, but were unlucky to be the team that got a bye into the quarter-finals and then face Dublin at that stage.
"We have got to do some serious soul-searching because if this continues to happen, we'll have no inter-county football teams," said Meaney.
He said they were doing all they could to combat the rot, but that a combination of factors is contributing to Carlow's problems, not least the effect of emigration.
The county has a population of just 54,000, and half of it is based in Carlow town.
Just a month ago, it was agreed that teams in the county minor league, which starts next week, can opt to play 11-a-side because of their difficulties with player numbers.
Carlow's football slump is in contrast to their recent hurling success and Meaney agreed that the small-ball game is in a much healthier state, as evidenced by Mt Leinster Rangers contesting this month's All-Ireland club final.
"A big part of the county is concentrating on hurling now and it's fair to say that there is more competition for places, and for mentoring positions, in our underage hurling teams," he said.
"Resources are a factor. Croke Park recommends you spend 45pc of your resources on county teams. We have a turnover of €750,000, which means you're giving €350,000 for county teams or €175,000 to each code. That's not much compared to counties who spend close to, or over, a million on their county squads.
"The system is skewed against smaller counties, but it's not all about money or writing cheques."
Meaney admitted that Longford – who Carlow would always have compared themselves to – have made stark progress, while they have struggled.
"Longford is smaller than us, but has had a lot of success at minor and U-21 recently," Meaney said. "They beat Dublin (at U-21) last year and Laois this week and they've recently won the Leinster minor football league."