Rural decline and Gaelic football

 

Sir, – Census data backs up (and indeed predicted) the experience of GAA clubs in Cahirciveen, Sneem and elsewhere that have suffered a decline in player numbers in recent years (“Rural decline has football in South Kerry on life support”, Sport, August 26th).

The population of Kerry in the last census in 2016 was 147,707, up by over 17 per cent since 1996.

However, the age group between 10 and 30 years of age – the key “sporting” years of most people’s live – actually declined by a similar amount, minus 17 per cent.

As many observers have noted, the boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s gave Kerry’s well-educated young people great opportunities to attend universities and pursue careers in locations far beyond the county borders.

Life being what it is, many settled while away and have not returned. This should probably be seen as a good thing, as many people’s lives were brightened by their individual successes. Nevertheless, their absence has cause difficulties for those left behind.

There is hope, however. The census data also shows that the number of children under 10 in the county increased substantially between 1996 and 2016 – a cohort currently entering their teenage years.

If this trend continues then GAA clubs like Skellig Rangers and St Michael’s-Foilmore should orient themselves to make the most of the next wave.

If they can attract kids away from their Xboxes and PlayStations, and offer a social, inclusive alternative to surfing and cycling, then they can look forward to growth once again.

If Kerry’s exciting and talented young senior team is anything to go by, the future is not nearly so bleak as some would make out. – Yours, etc,

JOHN THOMPSON,

Phibsboro,

Dublin 7.