Wednesday 22 May 2019

Carlow already taking emergency measures on football crisis

Carlow players David Bambrick and Jack Kennedy, dejected after the game.
Carlow players David Bambrick and Jack Kennedy, dejected after the game.

Cliona Foley

LAST Sunday's 28-point defeat by Meath may have been the nadir for Carlow football but, behind the scenes, work is already in train to address the county's beleaguered production line.

Carlow officials have already enlisted the help of several local businessmen to join a steering committee that is putting a new underage development squad system together.

Leinster Council met with this group a fortnight ago to discuss their ideas and also attended a workshop with them, in Carlow last Sunday, subsequent to their seniors' championship fiasco.

Carlow officials were reluctant to discuss their initiatives yesterday as they are still being firmed up.

But Leinster Council revealed that some of the work was already under way and said that they are "very happy" with some aspects of Carlow's underage programmes, especially up to the U-12 age group.

The county is going to enter a 'Carlow Town' team in Leinster's schools 'A' football championship next season, which is being facilitated by Carlow CBS moving down to the 'B' grade.

The board is also going to extend their own minor competitions right through until late August and talks are also already under way to make more of the expertise and coaching available through Carlow IT.

Last Sunday's 7-13 to 0-6 defeat by Meath was not the first sign that the county's football system is in serious danger of going under.

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Carlow played four football championship matches this year (two minor games and one each in U-21 and senior) and lost them by a collective margin of 77 points.

Their U-21s lost even more heavily then the seniors – a 31-point defeat to Dublin – when they scored only two points, almost a repeat of last year's defeat to the city giants when they scored only 0-3.

Carlow's minors lost by 12 points to Laois and by 10 to Longford and their four provincial championship matches this summer, across all grades, only produced a cumulative score of 2-20. But Leinster Council's top development expert Shane Flanagan said: "Carlow are getting a lot right up to a certain level.

"We're very happy with what they're doing, and the participation levels, up to U-12. The challenge now is to get their developmental and competition structures right from the 13-18 age group."

As Leinster's games development manager it is Flanagan's job to help counties get their coaching and competition structures in order and he says that Carlow have already taken emergency measures at juvenile level which are working.

"They have 46 coaches, from the clubs, going into primary schools. The participation level is lower in Carlow town but that's not unusual as participation rates in towns are lower in every county, but Mark Carpenter and those at O'Hanrahan's are doing a lot of work to change that," Flanagan added.

With Carlow IT running a BA degree in 'Exercise and GAA', their students are already involved in schools coaching through their placements and Flanagan revealed that Leinster Council inquired about extending this system.

Carlow hurling, paradoxically, has improved because some clubs have been playing in a Kilkenny junior league.

Flanagan added that Leinster are also looking at developing some cross-county competitions that could help Carlow footballers get back to a competitive level.

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