Before I begin, I genuinely believe the level of coaching has improved across all codes in Roscommon over the last number of years. However, there are still issues at the grassroots level of Gaelic football which need to be addressed if the county wants to make the most of the undoubted talent available in all clubs and schools.
Every week I receive results from the underage ranks of Roscommon GAA and every week they get the same reaction: utter bemusement.
Last week’s standout result was 11-8 to 1-7, which is more like the weekend opening hours of a local supermarket than a football scoreline.
Now, similar results happen across a number of sports so I’m certainly not picking on the GAA. But the reaction from some people I spoke to about this particular game really worried me.
“Ah sure, that’s the usual. They have to go to Corofin or Dublin for a proper game,” said one.
It has become obvious that ‘weaker’ clubs merely accept a hammering when faced with certain clubs at underage level. On the flipside, the all-conquering clubs celebrate success at underage level year in, year out.
This can’t be good for anyone in the county: it’s certainly demoralising for the teams on the receiving end while the victorious ‘conveyor belts’ stroll through competitions without ever reaching their full potential. Then we wonder why Roscommon struggle to be competitive on the national stage.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this. Underage development is a slow, patient process. The trick is to get the right coaches involved in grassroots football, the kind of coaches who understand that short-term successes are less important than long-term development. Clubs, even the successful ones, need to be on board with this also. A rising tide lifts all boats after all.