In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely argues that local GAA clubs must keep working hard if they’re to survive into the future.
Clubs around the county have come out of hibernation in recent weeks and the focus for all will be to do better than they did last year.
For teams that were lucky enough to win championships the task will be, can they hold form and return to further honours this year? Many club players will have pulled the boots out still covered with the dried mud from last season but it doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things and this time of year is when the heavy work is done.
The lights are on a couple of nights a week now in most clubs while others with great ambition are doing even more training. The levels required to win at any grade have taken a major step forward in recent years and only those players who are prepared to give a huge effort can have any chance of winning.
Some clubs find it hard to get players motivated at this time of year but the very same players who are not prepared to work hard are the guys that will have most chat when they go out of the championship. They will have all sorts of excuses and ‘if only’ will be used a lot but at the end of the day this type of player leave there club and parish down with such an attitude.
Many clubs in Limerick are under real pressure and unless some of them start working very hard they won’t be around for too much longer but others are setting targets and doing all they can to keep the tradition alive for those who will follow in the future.
I really admire the people that work so hard at club level. Others give the impression they are working but in every club you have the few people that really keep the show on the road. In many cases it’s the club Chairman that leads the way. In many cases they don’t get a lot of support and nowadays, unlike before, the players have no idea what it takes to run a club.
Running a club now is a major task and the Chairman and his committee have to worry about all teams not just the adult team. The adult team is the flagship for the club but if that is the case they also need to show huge example to the young players coming behind them. To wear the jersey of your own club, parish and people has to be one of the great things in life but players must always be mindful of the hard work so many people have done and are doing to make sure the tradition goes on well into the future.
We live in a time when many young Limerick players are forced to travel away from Ireland to get work abroad. In the time they will spend away from this country they will come to understand just how much the local parish and the local club meant to them.
They will reflect on a time when they played games around Limerick and how much they miss it. Those lucky enough to be working at home and able to play with their clubs must not take it for granted. The club is only as good as the people in it and the players must not only do it on the field but also support the club off it.
Loughgiel Shamrocks will play in the All Ireland club final next weekend - when they won the county final each player put one thousand sterling into the kitty, a way of making sure the club would have every chance of winning such a major honour. That was real leadership and it shows just how much the game means to them and what they are prepared to do for their club. I know clubs in Limerick that struggle to get players to sell a few lotto tickets and also the ex player who sells a few and thinks he can control the club. The club belongs to no one person.
For some reason a large percentage of GAA players don’t like paying membership and around now committee members will be chasing them to pay their dues but when it comes to other sports and in entertainment they have no difficultly. The better players and the better clubs don’t waste energy in this way and it’s easy to see how they are making progress.
Most clubs have the ability to do well but for some reason they spend too much time talking about it and too little time doing it. The landscape of Limerick GAA could be about to change in a major way with the amount of amalgamations that are taking place. I can see how this can happen but they should only be allowed happen with two clubs and not the three and four that is fast becoming the way.
The County Board has to act on this matter because, if allowed continue, so many areas will lose what they have had for so long. Every club will have lean years but they must do all in their power to keep their own flag flying. If they have to join with another club so be it but joining with a third and forth club is, to me, a lazy way out and it’s easy for lads to say we don’t have the numbers. That is not the case and the quicker the County Board act on this matter the better it will be for those parishes and Limerick GAA in general.
Every young boy or girl deserves the right to play our games and also the right to play with those they grow up with. That may not be the case in the future unless clubs keep working in the schools and at club level. It might be that a club will have to play in 13-a-side championships but better to do that and hold what they have until their numbers change.
Small parishes have lost so much, the co-op is gone and in many cases the shop and post office are but a memory and I would hate to see a parish without a GAA club but it will happen unless the County Board takes a stand and stops the farce of three and four parishes joining to make up one team.
That has nothing got to do with numbers instead it’s about winning but at what cost? The club that keeps working will come through the hard days and will be all the better for it in the future. Many clubs in Limerick are finding it hard to pay their way and as we turn into another year of action many have not paid all their fees for last year.
The County Board are working with these clubs in an effort to keep them playing the games and that’s the most important thing of all. Small clubs have a huge part to play and great things can happen with hard work.