In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely writes that a proper plan needs to be put in place to develop Limerick football.
Much of the focus over the past few weeks has been about hurling.
People at the top table had lots to say and how poor things were for the senior hurling team in the National League but we found out later that much of those words weren’t true. I haven’t heard too much from those at the top table in relation to the very poor performances of both the Limerick U-21 footballers and also the minors not only over recent weeks but also in recent years. Somehow that has passed them by and from where they stand it doesn’t really matter. Well, I have news for them, it matters to the players who wore the green and white of Limerick in those games, it matters to their families, their friends and the many people who follow the game of football in Limerick.
I can only imagine how those minor and U-21 footballers must have felt coming off the field in Pairc Ui Rinn after sustaining heavy defeats to Cork and that will only further hamper their confidence of competing not only at this level but also in the years ahead.
Everyone associated with those teams would have put in a very big effort but without the work done in the years previous they had little chance of competing with counties such as Cork and Kerry. For years I have been asking for a serious effort to be made to promote football in a real way at underage but instead of doing that the vast majority of the resources were applied to the senior team.
Limerick football is in a pretty bad state and the County Board have some serious questions to answer. They have sat in silence and given it token notice. When will the County Chairman and County Secretary make a serious statement about football? Please don’t give us the usual old tripe, either come to the table with some serious structures or just pull the teams from playing in the championship.
John Cregan was handed the job as Chairman of the Football Board just a few months ago and I would have confidence in the Drom-Broadford man to do a good job. He cannot do it on his own and the County Board needs to get behind him and back him with the necessary finance so as a foundation for the future can be built.
The County Board needs to spend an extra €50,000 per year for the next five years on the underage football system in Limerick and even at that it will only be the start of the process. Football in Limerick needs someone to drive and spearhead underage development and there is a huge need to build the knowledge of coaches.
Football in Limerick is in crisis and it has been that way for years, of course the senior football team had some good years and came very close to winning a Munster title. It was during that time that the foresight was needed but none was shown. Now the task is great but not impossible if the right people and finance are put in place.
Limerick are spending vast amounts of money on both the senior hurling and football teams and savings can be made and passed onto the development at underage levels. Last year was the first year that we did not get a breakdown of the cost associated with running the senior hurling and football teams and it would be nice to think that won’t be the case at the end of this year.
The Chairman of County Board Oliver Mann needs to empower John Cregan to make the necessary changes he sees fit and ring fence finance for him to make things happen. Cregan has a track record of delivering and with the right support and people around him he is the man best placed to guide Limerick football over the next few years. He has little hope of making progress unless he has the necessary finance in place to build a core group of people to deliver the programme in the development squads.
If John Cregan has to go cap in hand every time he needs to do something at underage level then he might as well cash his chips now and forget about it. Either give him the tools to work with or just withdraw from playing football altogether.
A plan for the next five years needs to be put in place and part of that must be the development of the game at schools level. Limerick has to develop four schools at secondary level and put the resources into them. It can be done but it will never be done as long as football only receives the token nod from the top table.
Young players want to play for Limerick and they want to do their best but it’s the duty of the County Board to put a system in place that sees players reach their full potential and be proud of wearing the Limerick jersey.
So let the next outburst be about the state of football, tell it as it is because then and only then will the fortunes of Limerick football start to rise.