Wexford are unhappy about the GAA’s revised coaching and games development financial model. County chairman Micheál Martin has described it as “one size fits all” and said that their representations to Croke Park on behalf of their hurling plan “have fallen on deaf ears”.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Martin acknowledged that he would not have raised these concerns last week with relegation to the McDonagh Cup a live possibility and is keen to emphasise that the poor performance of Wexford’s senior hurlers this season — which included defeat by Westmeath — is not related to the issue of development funding.
“The coaching and games funding model being rolled out is flawed in a big way. We raised concerns in 2022 and have been doing so since. At the moment I feel that we’re in dispute — they’re my words; others might not agree — because since February 2022 we have been querying this on an ongoing basis.”
County chairman Micheál Martin referred to Sunday’s redemptive victory over Kilkenny, which saved the county’s place in the championship’s Tier 1 Liam MacCarthy Cup
The impetus behind the remodelled funding was the growing unease with Dublin having been allocated more than €1,000,000 per annum for the best part of 20 years after the development of the games in the capital had been identified as a priority — far outstripping distributions to other counties.
The GAA appointed a sub-committee, under director of coaching and games development Shane Flanagan, to work out a more equitable metric for allocating games development funding.
That eventually settled on four headings: player registrations; the number of clubs; percentage of a county’s population made up by players up to the age of 37; and the number of teams. Player registrations are by far the most significant metric, receiving 60 per cent of funding.
Martin referred to Sunday’s redemptive victory over Kilkenny, which saved the county’s place in the championship’s Tier 1 Liam MacCarthy Cup. A tightly contested match could have gone either way and had Alan Murphy’s last-second goal not been disallowed, Wexford would have been in next year’s McDonagh Cup.
“The promotion of hurling in the lower tiers is really important but if that goal [Murphy’s] goes in at the end, then we’re down there as well. Our calls to Croke Park have fallen on deaf ears. Surely if a county comes with a fact-based plan, detailing areas that need to be addressed, there should be support.
“Instead they have developed a reactionary coaching and games model — reactionary because there was a degree of noise about the Dublin coaching situation. It’s a ‘one size fits all’ approach, ignoring the nuances. We were in a relegation battle with Westmeath and Antrim and we have the lowest funding of the three.
“It’s significantly lower than Antrim — and the best of luck to them; everyone supports it — who came with a plan for Gaelfast and a million was invested. We came with our hurling plan and to date, there has been no additional funds. When that wasn’t forthcoming we raised money on the basis of one-for-one funding. We know it’s required and detailed but it’s on top of our normal investment.”
According to Martin, Wexford is suffering because the metrics on which this year’s distribution of €9,000,000 (out of approximately €12,000,000) in direct funding is based, do not take into account the nuances of being a dual county.
“We have 45 dual clubs and Westmeath — again, I’m not being critical, just illustrating our situation — have around 35 football, 12 hurling and two dual clubs. So they’ve roughly the same affiliations but my question to Croke Park is do you want our dual clubs to affiliate twice, effectively to deregister and start all over again so there’s a proper reflection of activity?”
The funding will not be finalised until later in the year and is still under discussion but he is not optimistic about the direction of the negotiations. Wexford are trying to vary elements in the formula or to include consideration for counties with a specific hurling plan.
So far, there hasn’t been any meeting of minds.
We put in our original strategic plan that the success of Wexford hurling is linked to the social wellbeing of the county— County chairman Micheál Martin
“To say there’s frustration there is an understatement — and that’s not in any way attributing this debate to where we found ourselves this year.”
When the county launched their strategic plan in 2021, Martin attracted some controversy by asserting the importance of hurling to people in the county.
“We put in our original strategic plan that the success of Wexford hurling is linked to the social wellbeing of the county. At the time there was almost a roll of the eyes in some quarters — that we had overplayed the importance of hurling but I think you could see last week in the county that if Wexford hurling isn’t going well it does matter to people in the county.
“Now we need to capitalise on that emotion. There won’t be a situation where we say, we’ve escaped — let’s bury our head in the sand.”