Work­ing hard to pro­mote hurl­ing in the Gar­den County

GAELIC GAMES MARK KENNEDY TALKS TO HURL­ING AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TOR MICHAEL NEARY

Bray People - - Sports -

MICHAEL NEARY has been a Le­in­ster hurl­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor for the last three years.

As the job comes to an end in March, he can look back on three years of solid progress at ju­ve­nile level in Wick­low.

His brief at the start had him looking af­ter hurl­ing pro­mo­tion at un­der-age level in North Wex­ford as well as Wick­low.

Af­ter the first year Wex­ford were al­lo­cated their own hurl­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor, re­leas­ing Michael Neary to de­vote all his en­er­gies to looking af­ter his adopted Wick­low, a county he has served both on and off the hurl­ing field for over 20 years.

The fruits of his un­di­vided fo­cus on Wick­low are read­ily ap­par­ent. In the first year when his loy­al­ties were dis­si­pated be­tween Wex­ford and Wick­low, Wick­low were prover­bially ‘hock­eyed’ in the Tony For­re­stal com­pe­ti­tion; but in the fol­low­ing two years they put to­gether back-to-back wins in their group.

That’s not all ei­ther. The for­mer Kil­coole and county goalie was man­ager of the county’s U-14 and U-15 county de­vel­op­ment squads and as­sisted with co­or­di­nat­ing the U-16 squads.

All three teams have won their Le­in­ster leagues com­pe­ti­tions and pro­gressed to the B grade in 2009, which leaves them hurl­ing at a stan­dard just be­low that of the Wex­ford’s and Kilkenny’s.

‘We have a very strong U-15 squad of hurlers at the present time and I feel we have hurlers at this level ca­pa­ble of winning the All-Ire­land B Mi­nor hurl­ing over the next few years if they are looked af­ter prop­erly and helped to progress their un­doubted tal­ents.

‘We have the play­ers with com­mit­ment and hurl­ing abil­ity and I feel it is vi­tally im­por­tant that we have the right peo­ple over our ju­ve­nile county squads go­ing for­ward,’ he said.

De­vel­op­ment of county squads has been just one facet of Michael Neary’s work as a Le­in­ster hurl­ing de­vel­op­ment ad­min­is­tra­tor for Wick­low over the last three years.

His re­mit also in­volved the pro­mo­tion of hurl­ing at ju­ve­nile level in the schools and clubs and here too he has seen solid progress be­ing made dur­ing his rel­a­tively short ten­ure.

Wisely he de­cided to con­cen­trate his ef­forts on four or five tar­geted ar­eas – like or­gan­is­ing un­der-age blitzes, de­vel­op­ment squads, post pri­mary and col­lege teams, coach­ing and ed­u­ca­tion and hurl­ing work­shops – rather than spread­ing his ef­forts over too wide a field.

‘I felt that it was im­por­tant to do four or five things well rather than un­der­take too much and end up do­ing none of them well,’ said Michael Neary, whose brief also em­braced the DJ Carey school of hurl­ing ex­cel­lence in Au­gust, the Le­in­ster leagues, puck fada - to name but a few.

Among the top­ics he con­cen­trated on were the Le­in­ster U-13 mini feile, the north Wex­ford District and Wick­low U-13 and U-17 cross-bor­der leagues.

The mini Feile at­tracted 56 teams to the county in Septem­ber and was a tremendous suc­cess due to the in­put of the host clubs from Wick­low and the ef­forts of a hard-work­ing or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee.

He also had the task of iden­ti­fy­ing suit­able coaches to go into schools. ‘I be­lieve that it is at school level and at club level that hurl­ing has to be nur­tured amongst our youth. That’s most im­por­tant and by that yard­stick I think that hurl­ing at un­der-age level in Wick­low has shown con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment over the last few years’ he said.

‘We won the Tony For­re­stal com­pe­ti­tion two years in a row; we won the Le­in­ster schools com­pe­ti­tion; the U-15 team won all their games in Le­in­ster, beat­ing Kil­dare, Meath and Dublin north. This is the first time ever we have gone through the league un­beaten’.

‘There is a huge amount of work go­ing on with de­vel­op­ment squads and I am par­tic­u­larly pleased about that. Prior to my ap­point­ment there were no de­vel­op­ment squads in the county.

‘We now have more teams than ever play­ing hurl­ing at ju­ve­nile level in the county. There are now teams in Strat­ford, St. Ni­cholas, Bless­ing­ton, New­town and Round­wood where there was no ju­ve­nile hurl­ing be­fore, while Avon­dale, Ark­low Rock Parnells and Kil­coole are com­ing back on board.

‘Hope­fully Avoca and Aughrim will be com­ing on board in the next year or so. Peo­ple are work­ing ex­tremely hard and we have in­creased the num­ber of ju­ve­nile clubs to 18.

‘We are putting ex­tra ef­fort into our county de­vel­op­ment squads and clubs are start­ing to row in be­hind those squads.

‘I am happy that peo­ple are com­ing on board from the clubs; we have some very ded­i­cated peo­ple who are work­ing tire­lessly with our de­vel­op­ment squads. We will be adding an U-12 squad to the 14s, 15s and 16s in 2009.

Work­ing with ju­ve­niles is the way for­ward for hurl­ing in the county and a big re­spon­si­bil­ity rests with clubs in this re­gard’ he said. ‘I am de­lighted with the way that clubs have and are turn­ing things around. What we want to see go­ing for­ward is the new clubs keep­ing pace with the tra­di­tional hurl­ing clubs of Glenealy, Carnew, Michael Dwyers, Bray Em­mets and Eire Og.

One thing that Michael Neary would like to see hap­pen­ing is hurl­ing cham­pi­onships at all lev­els be­ing played ear­lier in the year than is the case at the mo­ment.

‘It would give the dual club a chance to con­cen­trate on foot­ball af­ter they fin­ished with the hurl­ing. Play­ing fi­nals in the depths of win­ter does lit­tle for the game of hurl­ing. It would be much bet­ter for every­one, es­pe­cially the dual club, if hurl­ing was run off first in bet­ter weather and then play the foot­ball’ he added.

Michael Neary is a na­tive of Dublin, won cham­pi­onship play­ing with Na Fianna, and was a mem­ber of the Dublin Se­nior hurl­ing squad in 1986.

He moved to Kil­coole and Wick­low in 1986 and played in goal for the county team for 15 years, winning a home All-Ire­land medal in 1996. He also has Keogh Cup and na­tional league medals play­ing for Wick­low, plus a se­nior All-Ire­land B win for Wick­low hurlers in 2003 when he was manag­ing the team.

Michael Neary’s hurl­ing cre­den­tials off the field are also im­pres­sive. As man­ager of the county se­nior team he steered Wick­low to three Ke­hoe Cup ti­tles in a row – a feat no other county has achieved – and he guided Myshall to a Car­low cham­pi­onship ti­tle be­fore tak­ing over as man­ager of Glenealy’s Se­nior team in the last cou­ple of years.

With Glenealy he has put to­gether back to back Se­nior ti­tles, the first time it was done in 50 years, and he was also man­ager of the New­cas­tle Ju­nior team that won cham­pi­onship medals in 2008.

A lot of Michael Neary’s time over the last three years has been taken up with Le­in­ster projects.

Now that his job as Le­in­ster hurl­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor draws to a close, one won­ders what di­rec­tion his ca­reer will take him next. It is hard to imag­ine he will not be in­volved in the pro­mo­tion of hurl­ing in some ca­pac­ity or other in the years ahead.

‘I must say that I have re­ally en­joyed my time as a hurl­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor and I was dis­ap­pointed when Le­in­ster de­cided to pull the plug on it.

‘The re­sponse I got from every­one was very pos­i­tive and I would hope Le­in­ster Coun­cil will re­visit the con­cept in the fu­ture,’ Michael said and added:

‘I would like to ex­press my sin­cere thanks to every­one who as­sisted, helped and co­op­er­ated with me over the last three years. That co­op­er­a­tion played its part in any suc­cesses I achieved over those three years and over­all it has been a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for me.

‘I en­joyed work­ing on the man­age­ment side of things and I hope there will be new chal­lenges for me to un­der­take go­ing for­ward.’

Le­in­ster hurl­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor, Michael Neary.

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