26 Sept 2022

OPINION: Specialisation issue continues to create debate in sport - Jerome O'Connell


EARLY specialisation in one particular sport or multi sport participation is a worldwide debate in recent times.

There are pros and cons to both sides of the debate, which is mostly centred around elite level or the progression towards elite level.

Recently, in Limerick, one GAA club has agreed to end all underage Gaelic Football training/coaching to concentrate on hurling.

The club in question are to continue to play club football fixtures but without any training sessions.

Not an ‘anti-football’ decision apparently but the club in question were worried about the standard of their underage hurling teams so felt the need to take football coaching out of the equation to allow for further hurling sessions.

It is understood that this decision was made at an official club Bord na nOg meeting.

Now I’m under no illusions that football will always play second fiddle to hurling in Limerick but I can certainly see how this decision has raised eyebrows. There are clubs in Limerick that have underage football teams but don’t field at adult level, but this is not one of those clubs

This is a club that has won championship titles at adult and underage level in it's history.

A club that has contributed players to Limerick underage and adult hurling and football panels in it's history.

It’s not for me to tell any committee how to run their club, but I can only imagine how the varying inter-county Limerick football managers must feel or how the members of the Limerick Football Development Committee. It’s appears very much a decision that doesn't put the club on a solid footing if they are again to win football championship titles at adult or underage level, or contribute players to future Limerick underage and adult football panels.

I understand this decision has led to the members of the adult football team compiling a letter which was sent to club officers to express their disappointment at the decision.

There is plenty time for a u-turn but it does show the continuing battle that Limerick football faces. Billy Lee and his management team have done incredible work across the last five years to get the Limerick senior football panel back onto a solid footing but decisions like this reinforce a point often made by the inter-county manager that the gulf between the club scene and inter-county level is greater in this county than most.

It’s not yet December so there is plenty time for a change of heart from the club in question and perhaps other clubs can also take a look at what they offer their community when planning for 2022.

The GAA at national level is attempting to work towards a ‘One Club’ model to bring Hurling, Gaelic Football, Camogie and Ladies Football under the one umbrella in clubs and parishes across the country. After all, the GAA mission should always be to provide a safe, holistic and nurturing environment for all children to enjoy all Gaelic Games.

I’m sure ‘inclusiveness and diversity’ is at the heart of the this club’s ethos too and while a decision has been taken, the old saying goes ‘Where there is a will there's a way’.

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