Central Council discussed the matter this month and are hopeful that proposed changes can help rid the event — catering for hurling, football, camogie and girls’ football — of a growing win-at-all-costs mentality.
“Things had got out of hand,” Cork’s Central Council delegate Des Cullinane admitted.
“We were hearing horror stories about teams going away for warm-weather training and having recovery sessions in hotels after training. The costs involved were huge. GAA president Liam O’Neill had made a strong statement that he didn’t want the Féile to be seen as an All-Ireland, that the original objectives of friendship and participation had be to be paramount.”
According to the GAA, the Féile is a festival of football, hurling, ladies football, camogie and handball “with the primary objective of facilitating and enabling the personal, social and cultural development of young people”, but concerns had been raised, most notably by the president, about the seriousness with which teams have been taking it.
The increased competitiveness has not proven beneficial in the long run, according to Cullinane. “Players exposed to serious competition like that at the age of 12 and 13 were not still playing by the time they were 19, and I don’t even think there was much of a correlation between Féile winners and the corresponding minor championships four years later. Now, it will be up to counties to nominate Féile representatives so that the same clubs are not consistently there, you might even have blitz competitions within counties. The overnight aspect for the finals might also be removed. We are hopeful that the Féile organising committee will issue guidelines by mid-March and the next Central Council meeting is on the weekend of Congress [in Derry, the weekend of March 21-23], so hopefully we will have something in place by then.”
This year’s football Féile takes place in Derry from June 28-30, while the hurling is in Limerick from July 5-7.