Level of GAA participation misinterpreted in report, says Kilkenny

Irish Sports Council chairman Ossie Kilkenny has today rubbished the interpretation of a recent ESRI report, which sections of the media believed pointed towards a downturn in the participation rates in Gaelic Games.

Kilkenny, who spoke at the launch of the Gala Senior Camogie championship today at Croke Park, underlined that the GAA is still the premier sporting organisation in the country when it comes to the on-field participation of its members.

"The ESRI report has had strange reports in the media and has been misinterpreted," Kilkenny said.

"The GAA is our cultural heritage and has the highest participation rates. Because the organisation has such power, it needs recognition for the powerful role it can play. This is not a challenge for the GAA but an opportunity."

The Sports Council chief also pointed towards positive figures in relation to the participation of those in women's Gaelic sports.

"Regarding camogie and women's football, between the two bodies there is over 200,000 participating."

Moving forward, Kilkenny believes that there are massive challenges ahead, especially in team sports once people reach 18 years of age and older.

"Our challenge is to move and accept the level of increase in women's participation. 76% of people over 18 are migrating towards individual sports," he said.

"The curve shows that after the age of 18 there is a massive drop off from team sports. Not only do we not have enough females in sport, but we have this drop-off rate across the genders.

"We have look at this in detail and find approaches to change the trend. We have to expand the way in which team sports help keep people active."

Kilkenny also hinted at possible cut-backs in funding to sports organisations, due to the economic downturn, but affirmed his commitment to getting the best deal possible for all concerned.

"These are times when things are not as good as they were a few years ago, and here at the sports council we face many challenges," he added.

"Our support from the government certainly won't increase, so we aspire to support those in sport who need it, and camogie is one of those key sports for us."

Kilkenny also stressed that the message of his organisation was not just to promote sport, but also to promote health and well-being.

"One of the key messages from the report was that active participation in sport extends the quality of life by 14 years.

"It does not mean longer life, but it extends quality. There is participating in sport for enjoyment, but for health as well and that's the message we are trying to get across."

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