Plunkett calls for Croke Park action plan to help Laois hurling
Laois manager Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett has urged the GAA to offer more help and guidance to second-tier hurling counties in order to make the game much more competitive at inter-county level.
Plunkett's Laois side came within seven points of Galway in Sunday's Leinster SHC semi-final, and after a quarter-final win over Antrim he wants to see a more sustainable plan put in place for his county's hurling needs.
"We're only looking at our county but Offaly and Wexford are broadly similar too. We would say we have a lot of things right here. We may not have our flagship team right, but it's as right as it can be at this minute.
"We have a very good base for hurling in Laois. Half of the county is hurling," he said.
Plunkett is calling for a development plan with central GAA input and the implementation of key performance indicators specific to Laois.
"I think our performance (against Galway) gives us something to grasp on to," he said.
But he asked: "Looking at Laois... what are the things required to grow the game and to provide enough quality underage players the whole way along so that you are able to compete with the best?
"It would need a complete analysis of the county right down to club level. It needs to be very specific and targeted. There are a lot of really good coaches in Laois but we need more. Almost all coaches in clubs are not able to go into schools any more, so there's a weakness there for a start."
Plunkett said he suspected Laois, with just two specific hurling coaches in the county, had less than the majority of tier one hurling counties. Ironically, Kilkenny also only have two in operation.
"The point I am trying to make is that the foundations are in place to make this happen but it needs more help – more in terms of coaches trying to meet certain targets,"said Plunkett.
"We're not looking for hand-outs nor for money to be thrown away. We are looking for finance to be put into a development plan that is targeted towards Laois.
"This is just waiting to happen. The GAA have people in headquarters to draw up this plan, where you can track it and see where it is going. This is what all hurling people want – a competitive inter-county championship with more teams."
Plunkett said he was aware of the money that had been ringfenced from Irish Sports Council funding – just short of €7m in seven years – for the development of GAA in Dublin.
"Good luck to Dublin. It's great what's happening there but I'd like to see the same plans in place for the other counties. I think you'll hear the same call from Offaly and Wexford too."
Plunkett's enthusiasm is well-known and after the county appointed successive 'outside' managers (Teddy McCarthy in 2012 and Brendan Fennelly in 2011), the relative success Plunkett has enjoyed indicates how better served they are by having a Laois man in charge.
Cahir Healy's commitment to hurling is a reflection of the status Plunkett enjoys.
"We are still in development. We have a bit of work to do to get to where the real performance levels are in terms of conditioning and stamina," Plunkett said.
"Somewhere along the way we will able to build up enough knowledge and experience to compete successfully. Sunday was an eye-opener in that sense."