‘We need a complete culture shift’: GAA chair Tracey Kennedy admits football in Cork ‘at low ebb’

Cork GAA chair Tracey Kennedy has admitted that the county needs “a complete culture shift” in its attitude and approach to Gaelic football.

Her comments come on the eve of the publication of a five-year strategy plan by a special committee of Cork GAA for football in the county. Improving participation and performance at all levels of football in Cork is the core objective of the strategy, which has been devised by the chairperson with All-Ireland winners from 2010 Conor Counihan and Graham Canty, and the county’s manager from 2013-2015, Brian Cuthbert.

Kennedy confirmed yesterday that some aspects of the plan are “radical” while others, she said, were rooted in common sense.

“We need a complete culture shift if Cork football is to be truly successful, and the support of all stakeholders is vital for its success,” she said yesterday.

It is understood salaried appointments are part of the strategy, some of which will provide an over-arching, uniform policy on coaching, strength and conditioning and even a style of play.

The plan focuses heavily on the formative years from second year in school and is also likely to address the participation of the colleges in the county’s senior football championship. Rather than remove UCC and Cork IT from the senior championship, it is felt that excluding a non-Cork player who has played senior championship in his own county may be a more palatable first step in a sensitive and divisive subject.

The county board chair said yesterday that the 50-page report will target a number of Year One initiatives, which they hoped to get approval on in the wake of a full Board discussion.

It is expected the strategy will also tackle the competitiveness of the county championships - where there are far too many struggling sides retaining senior status - and the County Leagues, which need a substantial revamp. Relegation in both competitions is seen as a prerogative.

There are also broader plans to tackle the perception of football in the county. From almost defeating Kerry in a 2015 Munster final in Killarney (under Cuthbert), Cork has only defeated Tipperary, Clare, Limerick, Longford and Sligo in Championship in recent seasons.

Kennedy admitted part of the problem with Cork football is the “disengagement of stakeholders” which has led to widespread apathy.

“Our teams are under-achieving for sure, we have difficulty sourcing quality coaches both at club level and for our development squads, and our county championships are not as competitive as they should be. Cork football lacks direction and support, and is perceived to be at a very low ebb,” she admitted.

“The time has come to stand up and be counted.”

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