Leinster get them young


ANYONE still insisting that the GAA has a "head in the sand" attitude, or, even worse, accusing the association of persisting with a dinosaur like approach to the promotion of hurling and football, should be directed towards the Leinster Council for some salient facts of life.

When the Leinster GAA Summer Camps were instigated in 1993, some 5,200 children participated in 70 camps throughout the province. Last year, that number had increased to 14,750 children, attending 192 camps. And, while the Leinster body's scheme is, as the GAA's PRO Danny Lynch readily admits, "the flagship of this exercise", the broad appeal of such camps is demonstrated by the fact that 35,000 children, under the guidance of 66 coaches, will participate throughout the four provinces this summer.

Last evening, in the New Stand's corporate section at Croke Park, Sony Playstation were announced as official sponsors of this year's Leinster Summer Camps.

"This investment represents a major boost to our comprehensive Games Development Programme," said Michael Delaney, Chief Executive of the Leinster Council. What's more, the attraction of a next generation video games system as the programme's backer speaks volumes about the marketability of Gaelic games among the country's youth.

It is expected that the camps - which run for four or five days at centres in each county under the direction of the Leinster Council's 28 full time coaches - will reach more children than ever this summer, with the paraphernalia on offer (t shirts, baseball caps, pens and games package) another indication of the organisation's determination to move with the times.

Another sign of the Leinster Council's commitment to lead the way was also, coincidentally revealed yesterday by former Kilkenny hurler and provincial coaching director Lester Ryan.

In conjunction with Laois hurler Cyril Duggan and Meath footballer Colm Brady, who are also employed by the Leinster Council, Ryan has organised a residential coaching programme - for elite hurlers from April 3rd-6th.

Based at Gormanstown College (and using some of the funds generated by Guinness's sponsorship of the All Ireland hurling championship and also Leinster Council finances), the intensive hurling only course will bring together panels of 22 16 year old players from each of the 12 counties in Leinster, explaining its "Leinster Academy of Hurling 97" label.

"The course will be extremely intensive with the emphasis on participation while encouraging and helping players reach their full potential," explained Ryan.

A bevy of prominent inter county players, including Wexford players Tom Dempsey, Martin Storey, Larry O Gorman and Larry Murphy, as well as their former manager Liam Griffin and Kilkenny men Nicky Brennan, DJ Carey, and Adrian Ronan, have agreed to address the teenagers at next month's course.