National under-17 competition centrepiece of hurling development plan

Celtic Challenge to be played nationwide from May and June of next year

 Antrim’s  Neal McAuley and Clare’s David McInerney at the launch of the  Hurling Development Committee action plan in Croke Park yesterday. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

Antrim’s Neal McAuley and Clare’s David McInerney at the launch of the Hurling Development Committee action plan in Croke Park yesterday. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

 
Hurling Development Committee

The driving force behind what was launched as a three-year action plan was to provide more games for players, especially those from non-traditional hurling areas. GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail spoke of the unsatisfactory current situation where minor hurlers outside the hurling strongholds were sometimes having to play off their annual intercounty season in one-day blitzes.

The new competition will be run over six weeks and will provide each team with a minimum of six matches. In total, 110 games will be provided to 912 players. It will be open to under-16 players who are not involved in state exams and will culminate in five finals being played on Saturday, June 18th, with the trophies named in honour of five of the people who died in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday.

Comprehensive

Pat Daly

“I don’t think it’s as simple as that,” said Daly. “Basically we’re fairly clear about the numbers we want. We want to increase the numbers. We’re very clear about the processes. There’s no point in talking about numbers and having the B and C competitions we currently have because there’s no future there. Kids don’t want to play in those kind of competitions, they have to be properly promoted, there has to be a big social media programme around it.

“It doesn’t necessarily matter what division you’re playing in as long as they’re properly promoted. What we’re talking about doing is having good competitive outlets, ensuring they’re properly promoted and that they’re meaningful and that there’s a desire among the young lads to play them.

“For as long as we’ve been around, a small number of counties have monopolised the Championship and had success in the Championship with the odd breakthrough here and there from the other counties. Is that going to change any time soon? I doubt it.

Additional support

One other interesting note from the action plan was Daly’s suggestion that innovation in hurley production is going to be vital in the future as the spread of ash dieback threatens the stock of raw material available. In the event of the doomsday scenario of there not being enough ash to produce the number of hurleys needed, Daly suggested we could be looking, in time, at hurleys with a fibreglass handle and an ash bas.

“If we look at what happened in Denmark, yes. If the disease spreads as rapidly as it has there, you could potentially be looking at that. But it’s not quite that way because there are plentiful supplies of ash elsewhere in Europe. If it does bottom out here there will be plentiful supplies. What is going to happen is that technology is going to change, the production process is going to change and the potential around a carbon fibre hurley or fibreglass hurley or some man-made element of hurley incorporating fibreglass and ash, I think that could become a realistic option at that stage.”

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