The Intermediate hurling championship must be played as early as possible this year
AS ONE who has been advocating change and modernisation at County Board level for some time I attended, with great anticipation, the Open Forum which took place on January 7 in Aughrim.
All club secretaries received notice of the event but I was surprised not to see the event advertised in the local media.
At this time of year there are very few club meetings taking place and some club committees may have recently changed so communication of the event to club members was probably limited. As a result I felt the size of the crowd in attendance was only average.
From the offset people in attendance were told that matters in relation to fixtures would be addressed at a separate meeting on January 15. A lot of the clubs' issues and concerns in 2012 related to fixtures.
Players and clubs want regular meaningful games in a defined period and if the fixtures problems are addressed it will clear the way for the County Board to deal with other concerns under their remit. A printed booklet of the yearly fixtures would be of huge benefit to both clubs and players.
The first item on the agenda was the Centre of Excellence in Ballinakill. In these financially challenging times it's great to hear that expenditure is either on budget or slightly under.
The Development Officer expressed his disappointment at the level of interest shown by clubs regarding this substantial project. It was discussed and proposed to maybe have another Open Day to outline where the project is currently at.
A concern going forward is the cost of maintaining this facility. It will be necessary to examine ways of self-financing the complex. My concerns in this regard relate to the location of the facility and also the prospect of clubs being levied to meet costs.
One of the big success stories over that last couple of years is the Junior hurling league. This league is played on Wednesday nights during the summer and is not interrupted by county teams or clashes with football games.
Last year saw some very one-sided games at this level mainly involving Senior clubs with second teams. As the Intermediate hurling championship and the knockout section of the Senior hurling championship didn't start until September last year this meant that some Junior teams had five Senior or Intermediate re-graded players playing Junior and this in turn led to some of these onesided games.
In some cases this also meant that Junior players in Senior clubs were not selected to play Junior with their own club as the club could use their re-graded Intermediate and Senior players up until September. This situation is totally wrong and the Junior hurling league should be for Junior players and, where possible, players of the same level.
Otherwise Junior clubs like Avoca, Fergal Ogs, Western Gaels etc. will struggle to field Junior teams if they are regularly on the receiving end of hidings. So, in 2013 we must play the Intermediate hurling championship as early as possible in the year.
Concerns were also expressed regarding the difficulties some rural Junior football clubs found themselves in due to emigration of many of their young players which make it difficult for them to field teams. It was also highlighted that some of the bigger clubs' second teams did not field in their specific championship and then in turn used some of their players to win championships at a lower grade.
On the night it was confirmed that two new separate review groups will be set up to address issues in football and hurling under the respective chairmanships of Martin Fitzgerald and Jim Bob Doyle. Details of the personnel involved in these new committees will be announced over the coming weeks.
Concerns were raised from the floor in relation to the current workings of development squads and the huge financial commitment involved. The Coaching and Games Development Officer confirmed the difficulties in attracting top coaching personnel to work with these squads.
He also outlined which full-time staff members would be co-ordinating particular squads. We are very fortunate to have five excellent full-time coaches at our disposal in Wicklow.
Would the county and the players not be better served if these five coaches managed/coached these squads rather than just co-ordinate them?
To be a successful county we need properly run squads and our five lads are the most qualified and available people to ensure that squads are working right and players reach their full potential.
In my opinion another option could be to ask some of the top club coaches in the county to act as joint managers of a particular squad.
However, for this to work efficiently, proper dates and requirements would have to be provided to these coaches in sufficient time. This in turn would enable the club coaches to continue working with their respective clubs while exposing the squads to a genuine wealth of coaching knowledge and experience.
Everyone present on the night agreed that we in Wicklow need to promote the brilliant product which is the GAA in a more professional and diligent manner. This will involve using the many media avenues available to get the message across.
The county GAA website is currently receiving urgent attention which is extremely essential and critical.