There was further evidence of the difficulties facing the GAA at all levels this week. Kevin McStay called for the association to provide financial support for transport and catering for all counties at senior level in his interview with Seamus Duke. Meanwhile, Glenamaddy, Williamstown and Glinsk GAA Clubs have been forced to amalgamate at underage level due to a lack of young players in all three areas. Two issues borne of the same fundamental problem: an imbalance when it comes to the funding and development of the GAA (and everything else) in rural Ireland.
According to McStay, Roscommon has no fewer than 26 players based in Dublin with taxi costs running into the tens of thousands each year. The Primrose and Blue are not alone when it comes to this mass exodus of players to the ‘big smoke’, Stephen Rochford spoke recently about the Mayo contingent who regularly return to Dublin after midnight following midweek training sessions.
Back to Glenamaddy Community Centre last Monday and new Northern Gaels Secretary, Gabriel Travers, said that the amalgamation of the three local clubs was unavoidable in order to continue to provide competitive football for local players at underage level. There are similar arrangements in both north and south Roscommon where juvenile numbers are decreasing.
Both of these issues will become more prominent as people from this region are forced to migrate east in search of work while rural clubs and the so-called smaller counties continue to struggle.
Looking ahead to the inter-county action this summer, the Super 8s is an exciting concept that will hopefully avoid the damp squib the championship has served up in recent years, certainly in terms of a televised spectacle.
On the other hand, it could be a death knell for counties that can’t afford to compete with the Dublins, Kerrys and Tyrones of this world. Most pundits can already pick six of the eight counties for this new format. How long before a regular ‘Super 8’ emerges and breaks further away from the rest? And how long before the amalgamation we see at underage level in rural Ireland becomes the norm among the senior ranks?