Working hard to promote hurling in the Garden County
GAELIC GAMES MARK KENNEDY TALKS TO HURLING ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEL NEARY
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.