Jimmy Walsh: Success of elite schools hits Kilkenny player development

Kilkenny GAA secretary Jimmy Walsh believes the success of a small number of secondary schools in the county is having a profoundly negative impact on the development of young hurlers between the ages of 14 and 18.
Jimmy Walsh: Success of elite schools hits Kilkenny player development

In his report to convention, Walsh outlines how several rural colleges are struggling to field a hurling team, due to the ability of successful schools to attract players from well outside their catchment areas — 11 different clubs were represented on this year’s St Kieran’s All-Ireland winning senior team.

The famed Kilkenny nursery has achieved All-Ireland senior glory on four occasions since 2010, while Kilkenny CBS contested the All-Ireland decider on three occasions during this period.

With each school eligible to field but one team at senior level, several students are not getting a game beyond second year, according to Walsh.

“The ability and success of large schools and colleges in attracting secondary pupils from way outside their traditional hinterland is a growing issue,” he notes.

“Their loss to their local secondary school is affecting some schools ability to field teams. In some cases where they are competing it is often at a less challenging level.

“In the bigger schools with only one team at senior level, many players with a grá and ambition to play will not get a game past first or second year.

“In both scenarios, it will stall the natural development of the players though the crucial ages of 14 to 18 or 19 where there are enough drop-outs as it is.”

Walsh also expressed concern over the incoming rule which will prevent 17-year-olds from lining out with their club at adult level.

“For many larger clubs, it will be the first chink in their ability to field third or second teams.

“In the rural clubs, where some players may have emigrated in recent times, its added effect on second or even first teams fielding particularly at crucial times of exams, injuries and holidays is a growing concern. Such an event in large or small clubs could have long-term implications on the playing population.”

The Kilkenny footballers reached the All-Ireland junior semi-final earlier in the summer and Walsh vented his frustration at the decision to fix the game against Mayo for O’Connor Park, Tullamore.

“The fixing of the All-Ireland semi-final in Tullamore took the gloss off the occasion. It was a lost opportunity to promote the game in the county, in line with the thoughts of the promoter of the competition, Liam O’Neill.”

Elsewhere in his report, the county board secretary draws attention to the GAA transfer figures for 2015 and the net loss of 850 players from Ireland this year — this equates to 35 teams of 24 players per panel.

Exactly half of the 479 players transferring into Leinster moved to Dublin clubs, while the remaining three provinces lost twice as many players as they gained.

“How many clubs this continuing trend will affect or wipe out is a shocking statistic.”

The Kilkenny County Board reported an overall surplus of €263,818, with team expenses falling by 6% to €571,212.

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