DONAL O'GRADY: Sensible proposals now need backing and finance

All counties are now required to have five-year development plans but I believe — and I’m open to correction Lennon this is the first time a discussion document on future planning has been produced by the Cork coaching officer.

Kevin O’Donovan has produced a comprehensive document and it would be difficult for anyone to denounce the aims or philosophy underpinning these draft proposals. Developing participation and skills at the various age groups are fundamental elements. It deals with the club scene and intercounty. It is sure to be welcomed by all Cork fans and clubs as a starting point for the regeneration of Cork hurling.

The establishment of a club players representative body can only be good. The document does not outline how this body would work but I presume a voice would be provided for adult players through their representatives at county board level.

The age group represented would be generally from 18 to 35. This group might bring a different perspective to county board affairs. They would also be in a position to be a powerful lobby group within the board. Players come into regular contact with the various club delegates and would be in a position to influence the delegates’ decisions at board level. This might lead to positive change through the implementation of new ideas and fresh approaches. One section jumped out to me: “Clear deficiencies are evident at all levels of Cork hurling in terms of aggression and physicality.” To rectify this, a player development programme is proposed.

In general, Rebel hurlers were always highly skilful and just as strong if not more so, than the opposition. Times have moved on and opponents are now stronger. The appointment of a “Head of Physical Development” is overdue. I mentioned the value of such an appointment to county board officers back in 2003 and recommended Sean McGrath, the Cork physical trainer at the time.

There is no doubt all intercounty teams would benefit from such a coordinated approach to strength and conditioning. The problem for the Rebels is the gap with other counties has widened significantly. It needs attention without delay. One needs only look at the recent U21 and minor losses. There were distinct differences in strength between Limerick and Tipp and the home teams.

This is an appointment that could be made fairly quickly. Appointing the right interview panel is important in the first place and appointing the right person to fulfil the role is key to Cork’s hurling development. There are many excellent proposals in this discussion document, from creating positive productive links to third level institutions, directors of football and hurling, coach education programmes, extra coaches for schools, regeneration of city hurling, regional centres of excellence, and the support and development of referees.

The question all interested Cork club personnel must ask is: If these proposals were implemented without delay, would Cork hurling and football be in a better place in a few years time? Like with any document, there are a few things I would quibble with, but it would be nitpicking in the extreme to mention them here. In general, I welcome these draft proposals.

However, a lot of the proposals require new financial commitments. The Páirc Uí Chaoimh project will hoover up any spare cash available to the county board over the next 10 years or so, lessening the chance of any substantial investment in coaching and games development.

I’m not sure what grants can be drawn down from government or the EU but there will still be millions to be paid off the stadium and, once built, daily running costs will be hefty.The government needs Páirc Uí Chaoimh for its Rugby World Cup 2023 bid. It’s probably too late, but maybe ownership could be handed over to the state and the work completed in a private/public partnership. A long lease could be put in place for Cork GAA, to facilitate the playing of county finals and intercounty games, which are economically important. This could save Cork GAA many millions which could be redirected to coaching.

Finding new income streams is imperative if these proposals are to succeed.

A major concern is the report from Eoghan Cormican of this parish in yesterday’s edition, that the report was distributed “unbeknownst to the top table”. Unless a majority of the board officers favour these proposals, they have no hope of success.

Whenever new initiatives are proposed, CEOs often use ‘lack of finance” as an excuse if they are against the initiatives. Yet when they see merit in a proposal they tend to “find the money somehow”.

It might be time for Cork GAA to adopt this attitude.


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