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Cash boost on horizon for hurling black spots

THE GAA will pump €120,000 into hurling's most destitute areas, provided a blueprint commissioned by president Christy Cooney is approved, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The blueprint, which will inform hurling development for the next ten years, was ordered by the GAA president in an attempt to boost hurling at all levels and to widen participation.

A final report is to be presented to the Management Committee next Friday before it goes before Central Council. The amount being earmarked for the worst afflicted spots, the fourth-tier counties of Cavan, Fermanagh, Longford, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo, is almost half the total annual cost projection of €288,000.

Proposals for consideration include the fourth-tier counties opting out of the National League so that they can use the time and resources involved more beneficially, especially in promoting hurling at local level and forming a solid club base.

The set of proposals, following widespread consultations, has been produced by the National Coaching and Games Development Committee, chaired by GAA presidential candidate Liam O'Neill and including former hurling stars John Fenton and Seán Silke.

It is proposed that each of the six fourth-tier counties would receive Central Council funding of €20,000. Third-tier counties, ten in all, would get €10,000 each towards promoting and developing hurling. Second-tier counties would share a total of €30,000 and the elite, the first-tier, would rely on existing funding.

Recently, the Cavan secretary Liam McCabe found himself in hot water after suggesting that his county might withdraw from the National Hurling League and use the cost savings to drive new hurling initiatives. Counties like Cavan have tiny resources, with as few as three adult hurling clubs.

Withdrawing from the league is not the only option proposed. A reduction in league games to ease pressure on local fixtures will be presented for consideration. Another possibility is a preliminary competition to the Lory Meagher that would replace the league. An integrated League/Lory Meagher competition is also mooted.

A more regionalised approach towards stimulating hurling in weaker areas forms a key part of the committee's conclusions, which would deviate from the old rigid club structures and formats.

Meanwhile, former Tipperary hurler, Ryan O'Dwyer, made his debut yesterday for the Dublin hurlers against the Dubs Stars at the St Brigid's grounds. The 24-year-old teacher played at centre forward for Anthony Daly's side in the annual exhibition game.

Sunday Indo Sport