Tracey Kennedy: Our people are gasping for change

A number of new frontline Cork GAA appointments will spearhead a major five-year plan aimed at reviving the fortunes of Cork football.

The Cork 2024 strategy was launched yesterday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh with Cork GAA chair Tracey Kennedy stressing that the posts will be funded locally.

Last month the board’s financial difficulties with the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh were revealed in the Irish Examiner and yesterday Kennedy said regarding the cost of those appointments, some of which will be advertised next month: “That’s obviously a question we were going to be asked, and it’d be foolish to presume it’s not going to cost us anything. I’m not going to say that.

“But you can see from the document that the main cost applies to the appointments, and, while we’ve looked at that, we’re not putting out figures in public because that would hamper our negotiating position when employing people.

“Not all of the positions will cost money, either. The junior administrator role, which we see as vital to co-ordinating Rebel Óg and schools and fixtures planning, that will be funded by Rebel Óg. So that won’t take extra funding.

“The high performance director, while there’ll be a cost to that, there will also be associated economies of scale because we’d look at that as streamlining. At the moment each inter-county team has its own set-up in terms of S&C, nutrition, etc. By having one person to co-ordinate these areas we would anticipate savings here.”

The plan was unveiled by Kennedy, former Cork managers Conor Counihan and Brian Cuthbert, and All-Ireland-winning captain Graham Canty, who formed the working group which produced the document.

The key objectives aim to improve the standard of football played in Cork, both at club and inter-county level and to improve the football infrastructure in Cork at all levels; increasing the competitiveness of club championships in Cork, particularly the senior football championship; ensuring a clear player development pathway for inter-county players; increasing support for Cork football teams and improving the overall perception of Cork football.

Kennedy said that to turn those aspirations into reality, Cork would need to be regular All-Ireland contenders in all grades of inter-county football, including club championships, within three to five years; support for Cork football and the profile of its inter-county footballers would have to grow significantly within one to two years and high-quality coaches with a strong focus on developing the fundamental skills of the game would have to be available in all clubs, along with a support network for those club coaches led by the county games development staff, by the end of 2024; a county championship structure to support this work to be in place within three years; a clear over-arching vision/plan for football in Cork communicated to and understood by all involved in the game; and a well-resourced administration fully supportive of this plan and driving its success.

The appointments needed to oversee the plan include a project co-ordinator to oversee the plan’s delivery; a high performance manager to oversee and develop the sports science elements of teams; a talent identification manager to work on the player development pathway at underage level; a junior administrator to support the work of Rebel Óg, and a media liaison officer working on the promotion of the senior football team.

The plan also recommends that some of the key strategies in relation to coaching and coach provision would form part of the duties of two imminent GDA appointments.

Kennedy acknowledged apathy among football supporters is a factor on Leeside.

“This plan seeks to reboot that sense of ‘Corkness’ in our players, our clubs and our supporters, and to include all who are passionate about Cork GAA in that recovery.”

She added: “We want to see Cork football rise once more to the heights it should reach, leading the way in terms of both performance and participation, and setting an example to all our rivals. In our vision, everyone who is passionate about Cork football.

“Players, coaches, administrators, and supporters will work together to ensure the implementation of this plan and the delivery of the desired outcomes, and pride will be restored in Cork football.”

The plan aims to have football taught in all primary schools in Cork as part of the PE curriculum, with all primary schools offering Gaelic football as an after-school activity.

At club level there is strong backing across the county for a better-structured, higher-quality county championship and county league system, Kennedy said, adding: “The need for change to our competitions structure was a major trend in the submissions we received.

“It is imperative that the apathy is tackled head-on. Our vision is founded on the realisation our people are gasping for change. Our stakeholders want their voices heard and listened to.

“Currently, they feel disconnected from our teams and from our administration.”

Added Conor Counihan: “The resources being applied will be of major benefit but these are worth nothing without the support of the people on the ground. This is an opportunity which we all need to embrace for the good of Cork football.”

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