In a 16-page document circulated to club delegates at the end of last night’s County Board meeting unbeknownst to the top table, O’Donovan said there is little doubt an urgent need for significant improvement at all levels in Cork now prevails.
“While the extent of our decline will continue to be perused until we grace Croke Park again, it is appropriate to first shift the discussion towards the broader landscape,” he remarked. Outlining his 25 proposals, the coaching officer was adamant his document, which is primarily focused on increasing participation and performances levels, was part of no coup.
“I write on my own behalf and do so with one objective; the betterment of Cork GAA. There is no secret cabal. The cult of personality is not for here. Hence, no names appear, no heads are called for, no Hollywood appointments are sought.”
Highlighting the “clear” deficiencies evident at all levels of Cork hurling in the areas of aggression and physicality and all levels of Cork football in the area of skill proficiency, O’Donovan has called for the establishment of a player development programme for players in the 18-25 age bracket.
“Clear inconsistencies are evident from minor upwards in terms of coordinated player development programmes and planning. Mixed messages are leading to confused players. The directors of football/hurling would oversee all programmes – technical, physical, tactical and personal - ensuring a clear and consistent approach from minor, U21, intermediate to senior.”
Reiterating his insistence that Directors in both hurling and football are required, O’Donovan also believes more coaching bodies are required on the ground. “Ultimately, if Cork GAA wishes to keep pace with competing counties, further bodies are required to assist the volunteer in meeting the increasing coaching demands. Priority would be in primary and particularly, post primary schools.”
In order to address the decline of hurling in the heartland of Cork city in terms of both participation and performance, O’Donovan proposes the implementation of a three year programme for children aged 6 and 7 years in all city schools and clubs. Running from late 2016 to mid-2019, it would contain four major strands: an eight-week coaching programme in schools, the provisions of hurleys, hemlets and sliotars to all children, coordinated club nursery programmes and promotional events such as providing all children who full under the regeneration model free entry to Páirc Uí Rinn and Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“If the project was deemed to be successful in year one it may be expanded to further class groups and other areas across the county in years two and three. Potential partners would include clubs, school, Rebel Óg, Sciath na Scol, Cork Camogie, Seandún Board, Cork Sports Partnership, UCC / CIT.”
On the latter pair, O’Donovan added: “Further strengthening of linkages with UCC, CIT and other third level institutions in the county is required.”
Central to reversing the county’s slide down the pecking order, he believes, is enticing all former greats to return to the coaching scene within the county. “We appear to be unique as an exporter of coaching talent to other counties. All efforts must be made to recruit all former Cork players and coaches, without exception..”
On the club front, he commented: “While the GPA meets the needs of the county player, the club player is left without a voice. The founding of a club players body in Cork is proposed.”
His preference is to return the senior, premier intermediate and intermediate championships to 16-club competitions which begin with the group stage model.
“While we continue to pay lip-service to the club as some ancient covenant, we continue to erode it with our actions. It’s time for recalibration; time to renew vows with our first love.
“The haphazard nature of fixture provision in the GAA previously with the predominance of inter-county programmes is no longer fit for purpose in the ‘timetabled’ nature of modern life, while in developmental terms, the early knockout of teams and idle pitches in summer is no longer acceptable.”
Conversation surrounding Cork’s exit from the All-Ireland hurling championship was deferred to the August meeting as all pressing issues, aside from club fixtures, were sidelined in tribute to the late Jim Forbes.