Martin Kiely Column - Other Limerick schools must step up to the mark

There was a busy day of action on the Limerick GAA club scene on Saturday
It was great to have an all-Limerick Harty Cup final but the other schools in Limerick need to get up to that standard too.

It was great to have an all-Limerick Harty Cup final but the other schools in Limerick need to get up to that standard too.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Gaelic Grounds to watch the Harty Cup Final between Ard Scoil Ris and Doon, it was an historic day for colleges’ hurling in Limerick and one that many should be very proud of.

Ard Scoil have been building for a while, they have a very good base in place and have some of the best young hurlers from Limerick and Clare playing with them. It has reaped huge rewards and it looks like this model is there to stay and will prosper in the future.

The entire colleges’ hurling scene needs to be overhauled and many will have noticed that the overall standard has dropped over the past few years. There are many other schools doing some good work in Limerick and they need to be supported in the same way that Ard Scoil Ris have been.

Castletroy College, in a short time, has made huge progress and they have the people in place to continue that and I expect them to develop in the near future. It’s dangerous, to say the least, to apply all the eggs in the one or two baskets and schools in the West, East and South need to be developed in a way that not only benefits the school but also the clubs and the county.

A crazy decision was passed last year that prevented amalgamated teams from taking part this year, that decision destroyed the very good work that some schools had started and ended the hopes of many young players playing hurling at this level.

One leading official in Munster told me last week when I discussed this matter with him, “It’s not easy to deal with some of those people in charge of running our colleges’ games.” He was right because this view has also been expressed to me by many teachers who have to deal with them.

They need now to come off the lofty perch they have provided for themselves and do the right thing and allow amalgamated teams return and also to have a serious look at how they plan their games. The Harty Cup started back last September and we only had the final a couple of weeks ago, that’s just crazy. The real burn out of our young players is taking place at colleges level but it’s taking place unchecked by those in power.

Colleges hurling, which I had the pleasure of playing, should be about enjoyment and development but that’s long gone, we now have some people who see this grade as a way of bringing themselves credibility as coaches and drive young lads to the limit and pay no attention to some of these lads who would also be involved at county level. In fact, I know of a case where one coach at colleges level told a player to forget about the county. Sad but true.

Limerick GAA now has a great chance to really build a strong schools base and that will aid the development of our county underage teams in the years ahead. South Limerick has a great tradition of producing some great hurlers and this needs to be fostered at secondary schools level in a major way.

Hospital has a very proud tradition of education and I can remember quality players from so many clubs playing with both the then Vocational School and what was known locally as the Convent. That has changed now and both schools have amalgamated into a super school with huge numbers.

Our national games are played in this school but given their numbers and the quality of clubs in the area this school should be further up the ranks as far as gaelic games is concerned. It takes ‘buy in’ from many and it takes cooperation from all sides but the base is there to make this school a serious player in colleges hurling and football once more.

I know some work is being done but if it requires a full time coach to be placed in the school so be it. Would they not be better placed there than in a third level college in the city?

The secondary school in Kilmallock is making progress and they have enjoyed a great year so far and they will enjoy good days in the future but they also need support and more time in the training field will help these young players now and in the future.

The surrounding areas of Kilmallock will ensure some quality players coming through and that will serve all sides. It’s not all about Harty either, I have seen many great intercounty players come from playing “B” levels and many of these lads remained loyal to the games when others were long lost.

Colasite Na Trocaire in Rathkeale has in recent years put in a very big effort in gaelic games and played a key role when an amalgamated team was played for the first time two years ago. They like a couple of other schools in the West have been working hard and they need even greater support.

Pallaskenry have, in the last couple of years, started a programme that will set a very solid foundation going forward and having the likes of Clare All Ireland medal winner Colin Ryan on board will aid the work of others also. Having teachers that are willing to give of their time in such a selfless way is just outstanding but they often become deflated when other schools adopt a covert approach of poaching their best players. This is alive and well in Limerick. Good players of course have ambitions but taking them from their natural base might serve a school but not the community and school he comes from.

Schools are just one of the ways rural communities identify themselves, gaelic games is the bedrock of most parishes and when they work together great things are possible. Limerick G.A.A has a great chance to develop a plan that will see all schools play their part, how they deploy their resources from coaching to financial support will play a big part in how our national games are played at college’s level.

Some schools in the city and the county are making just a token effort and that’s very disappointing and fails to serve the interest of many.

I am sure they will find reasons to explain this but are they justifiable ones?