Offaly set for funding boost in bid to arrest steady decline in fortunes
The serious decline in the fortunes of Offaly hurling has prompted the GAA to assign it special status alongside Antrim, Carlow, Laois and Westmeath, who were deemed to be in need of direct intervention earlier this year.
Omitted from the €900,000 five-year funding initiative when it was announced in February, Offaly are now to be included, following a request from the county board. Each of the five counties will receive extra funding of up to €45,000 per year to bolster supports for county teams.
Offaly's addition to the list, which has been approved by Central Council, is a recognition that the county is in need of a boost after falling from the spectacular heights it reached in the 1980s and 1990s, during which it won four All-Ireland and nine Leinster senior titles, as well as also doing well at underage level.
The Offaly County Board decided to apply to be part of the new deal in an attempt to kickstart a regeneration of fortunes.
"We have to be realistic and look at things as they are, not as they were. We have had great success in hurling since the start of the 1980s but that's history now.
"In terms of infrastructure, we'd be fairly closed aligned to the four counties (Carlow, Laois, Antrim and Westmeath) who were included in the new funding programme, which was why we decided to apply.
"In fairness to Croke Park and Central Council, we were pushing an open door," said Pat Teehan, Offaly's Central Council representative.
The additional money, which will be paid directly to service providers rather than county boards, can be spent on various team supports above and beyond what would normally be provided.
Offaly were included on the list of counties deemed capable of winning an All-Ireland title in a given year, but their addition to the programme suggests that is no longer seen as likely in the short to medium term.
Some supporters will be disappointed to see the county classed alongside others who haven't enjoyed the same level of success, but times have changed and the county board are happy to take whatever is available in an attempt to plot a way out of the current recession.
Offaly, who begin their Leinster campaign with a quarter-final clash against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on Sunday week, have won only three of 14 championship games in the last five years.
Their addition to the programme will require an extra €225,000. The original allocation of €900,000 was based on €45,000 for four counties for five years. In addition, €100,000 has been set aside for other developing hurling counties.