Leinster Council to take direct role with four hurling counties
Offaly, Westmeath, Carlow and Laois will benefit under new provincial plan
Leinster chairman John Horan and vice-chairman Jim Bolger with Wexford hurler Eanna Martin and Kildare footballer Paul Cribbin at the launch of the Leinster GAA Strategic Vision and Action Plan at Croke Park. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Leinster Council has outlined plans to raise playing standards in the province. These include taking a direct role in the senior teams of certain counties, the hurlers of Offaly, Westmeath, Carlow and Laois.
John Horan, provincial chair, outlined the challenges facing the province despite an apparently satisfactory year at the end of which both All-Ireland titles have been won.
“Ultimately we’ve put together a plan we hope will lift Leinster. We’re not naive. In real terms we have the Liam MacCarthy and the Sam Maguire in Leinster but that’s only papering over the cracks.
“Do we have a competitive championship in hurling and football? You’d have to say that Kilkenny and Dublin are out-stripping everybody else.
“Look at the reasons why they are so successful. Dublin are so successful because of their capacity and in having that size, they’re able to have competitive competitions in every age group. They have enough teams to make them competitive.
“A lot of the other counties in Leinster wouldn’t have that, particularly in hurling. In Kildare for instance Naas outstrip everybody. That’s where Dublin come from: competitiveness and capacity.
“Kilkenny come from a different perspective. They’ve an extremely well organised school structure. Their primary schools and second-level schools are all highly competitive. Their second-level schools always get to the latter stages of the provincial hurling competitions and to the All-Irelands.
“That in its own way is sharpening their edge when putting minor squads together. They don’t have to apply as much in terms of development squads. So that’s where the two of them are.”
To address the situation in hurling the provincial plan envisages direct assistance to the four hurling counties concerned.
“What we’ve actually done,” said Horan, “is we’ve engaged with county boards and got them to get the right people in to do the right jobs and we’ve made the links with them into the colleges.
“Athlone IT is suiting the midlands, Carlow is suiting the south east and DCU is suiting up around here. But what we’ve also engaged in that whole process is the education of the county board officers – that, if you take over as a county chairman in the morning, how much do you know about strength and conditioning? How much do you know about dieticians and all this sort of thing?”
He also said that initiatives such as cross-border leagues would help counties develop their game by providing competitive matches at under-age level.
“No matter what you say, competitive matches are far better than any training sessions. We can train and coach the life out of kids but they’ll never improve unless we provide a competitive environment in which they can actually perform those skills that we’re teaching them.”
He paid tribute to Kilkenny trainer Michael Dempsey, who was particularly involved with the project and who according to Horan, “put in great time and effort to go around the counties to work on the plan and the interviews and the report. He’s a busy man with his job in Carlow IT and his responsibilities with the Kilkenny senior hurlers but Michael Dempsey played a huge role.”
He was asked was it not unprecedented for the council to get involved with county teams.
“It probably is. I must say I was a bit nervous at the beginning as to how people would view this. But I honestly believe that people viewed that we were doing it with very honourable motives, that we were doing it in a supportive fashion.
“We were doing it as a supporter rather than an inspector. And I think in that sense, they all embraced it.”