Where will the Hurling Forum take the game?

The names of the people chosen by GAA President Liam O’Neill to form the Hurling Forum were announced recently. Each one is well qualified to consider what changes, if any, are required, writes Nickey Brennan.

The names of the people chosen by GAA President Liam O’Neill to form the Hurling Forum were announced recently. Each one is well qualified to consider what changes, if any, are required, writes Nickey Brennan.

The selection of Tipperary’s Liam Sheedy as chairman is a smart move, but until such time as the forum’s terms of reference are outlined we can only speculate on what the group will discuss.

Thus far we know that the forum has been established ‘to examine the state of hurling and to make proposals to ensure its wellbeing in the future’. A laudable aim. Other groups, though, have a similar remit and it will be interesting to see what will be different in the proposals which will emerge from the Hurling Forum.

The role of the Hurling Development Committee is also to look at the wellbeing of hurling and to make proposals to the GAA Central Council which would support the game and enhance it, where possible.

Provincial Councils have a clear role to foster the game also. Here in Kilkenny we are familiar with the initiatives from the Leinster Council which involves youngsters in all age groups up to minor level.

In addition, there is the Leinster adult club league in which over 60 teams are participating this year. A similar adult league, called the Táin League, has been run for a number of years by the Ulster Council.

Both leagues are a great success. Participation is voluntary. To have over 100 clubs involved in the leagues is excellent. The bulk of the teams, especially in the Táin League, would have Gaelic football as their primary game.

The big advantage with the leagues is the opportunity for club sides to play against opponents from other counties.

That model whereby club sides from different counties participate in leagues may well point the way to hurling’s future for counties below Tier 1.

Good example

The participation of Carlow clubs in the Kilkenny All County junior hurling league is a good example of how clubs clearly benefit from playing at a higher standard. With a limited number of hurling clubs in Carlow, the opportunity to play against new opponents is welcomed by the players.

Given the success of this venture, is there any reason why all Carlow hurling clubs should not compete in Kilkenny leagues at every grade? Of course there is not. I am sure Kilkenny sides would also benefit from such a development.

Some Carlow and Laois sides have participated in Kilkenny under-age leagues and players have also benefited from the experience.

If Kilkenny and Carlow can be aligned to provide meaningful league competitions for clubs, why could the same not apply to Wexford/Wicklow; Dublin/Kildare and Laois/Offaly/Westmeath? For practical reasons some adjustments to this structure would be necessary such as North Wicklow clubs playing in Dublin.

Some clubs may not be happy with such an arrangement as they may see the increased travel as prohibitive but the proposal is worth considering. It would certainly create a pathway for clubs in second and third tier counties

to improve their hurling.

Perhaps this is one issue which the new Hurling Forum might have on its agenda over the coming months. All will become clearer when we know their terms of reference.

The successful outcome of the Football Review Committee’s deliberations creates expectations that the Hurling Forum is also going to come up with a raft of proposals. I doubt very much if that will be the case.

The FRC set up an excellent consultative process and the methods used to engage with a wide audience was very successful.

Gaelic football had many problems and these were clearly signposted prior to the review process starting. Nevertheless, despite what many saw as obvious changes to the game, the FRC went about selling its proposals to all stakeholders in a highly professional manner.

Hurling has fewer issues to address. There is speculation that the comments attributed to Eddie Keher and Brian Cody relating to how rules are administered may be considered by the Forum. Time will tell.