Yet another Hurling Development Plan was launched by the GAA last week. It comes from the GAA Hurling Development Committee which is chaired by the incoming GAA President, Liam O’Neill.
This plan contains many worthwhile initiatives, but ultimately, like many of the plans which have been unveiled over the years, its success is heavily dependent on the support of County Board officials.
The key proposals include:
The development of a Táin Adult Club Hurling League to provide a meaningful programme of hurling games on a regular basis for adult club players in 13 developing hurling counties.
The establishment of a National Hurling and Camogie Development Centre at the Waterford Institute of Technology Sports Campus.
The provision of Sports Science supports to six counties - Antrim, Down, Carlow, Laois, Westmeath and Kerry.
The promotion of a games based approach to training and development.
The appointment of hurling mentors as part of a Support Team who will collaborate with County Boards and provide guidance to team managers and coaches involved with under-age and adult county teams to maximise participation and optimise performance.
Undertake a Research Study as part of an overall project to facilitate change management in a development context.
The Táin Adult Club Hurling League commenced recently with a full programme of fixtures across 13 counties (the nine Ulster counties plus Louth, Longford, Leitrim and Sligo) and involves 59 clubs across five grades in ten divisions.
The fixtures schedule for the new competition complements that of the Allianz Hurling League and the three knock-out competitions, the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups.
Players will have three competitive club games in February before the start of the Allianz Hurling League on the February 26. Throughout March and April, the Allianz League and the Táin League will alternate on different weekends.
The establishment of a National Hurling and Camogie Development Centre at the Waterford Institute of Technology Sports Campus had been mentioned for some time, particularly in the context of the Carriganore development.
The facilities at the WIT facility are excellent and will provide an ideal forum for hurling enthusiasts and emerging players to promote and develop the game.
I am not sure what is contained in the Sports Science support to the six counties. I have no doubt, though, that the support will be welcomed, but those counties failure to make better headway over the years is certainly not sports science related.
Games based approach
I welcome a greater concentration on the games-based approach to training. Many team coaches are obsessed with developing the physical attributes of their players rather than the skills of the game.
If the proposed games-based approach changes the mindset of coaches it will have served a very useful purpose.
I was rather intrigued with the list of individuals who were mentioned as providing guidance to counties as part of the development programme. All those mentioned are eminently qualified to undertake such a role, but the absence of anyone from Kilkenny is intriguing.
Individuals from Kilkenny have provided support and advice to many weaker counties in the past and this is continuing right to the present day. Nevertheless, the absence of any Kilkenny person from the list of mentors is perplexing.
Late last year a committee reviewing the development of Gaelic games in Third Level Colleges recommended that a bursary should be made available to undertake a major piece of research for the Association.
The final proposal from the Hurling Development Committee is an ideal research project which can also achieve the objective from the Third Level Review Committee.
I am glad that there is no particular emphasis on money in the report, albeit that additional finance will be made available to ensure the success of the plan.
Finance has never been an issue when it came to developing hurling. Significant funding has been provided over the years, but this plan, like all previous plans, is about getting enough individuals with a passion for the game to promote what was launched last week with lots of enthusiasm.
Irrespective of what has been said since the plan was launched, its success is entirely dependent on the support of senior county officials. Thus far, a commitment has been given to allocate specific nights for hurling in the participating counties. That is a good start.
The plan has sensible aspirations and expecting any of the participating counties to challenge the top hurling counties is not one of them. If the counties and their participating clubs enthusiastically embrace all elements of the plan, then progress can be made in improving standards.
Obtaining support for the plan at this time of the year is not particularly difficult, but it may well be a different story during the summer when Gaelic football competitions are in full swing.
It is only then that the commitment of the thirteen participating counties will be really tested