Camogie membership drive

THE Camogie Association plans to expand its membership and club base by 40% over the next five years and to put systems in place in the four remaining counties that don’t have a board structure.

THE Camogie Association plans to expand its membership and club base by 40% over the next five years and to put systems in place in the four remaining counties that don’t have a board structure.

These are key features of their National Development Plan — ‘Our Game, Our Passion’ — which will be launched at the annual Congress in Newbridge this weekend.

Association president Joan O’Flynn is satisfied their target is ‘realistic,’ commenting: “We have 540 clubs at the moment and by 2015 we are aiming to have 750.’’

They also hope to strengthen their international base, to get away from a reliance on emigrants to help form teams.

“We’re changing tactics,’ she says. “We’ll be trying to develop under-age camogie and in that we have targeted London and North America for the next six years.

“There is a challenge out there and it’s a difficult time in terms of resources but the ‘driver’ is people’s passion for camogie and the voluntary commitment people have towards the game.’’

The motivation, she agrees, is provide the opportunity for ‘every youngster’ wanting to take up the game.

“We want to put in place a proactive strategy where we are going to go out and target areas and clubs where there is no camogie with a view to growing it there. In particular we are targeting hurling clubs — areas where there is hurling but there isn’t camogie — so girls get the same opportunity to play the national game as boys!”

Their last strategic plan (2004/2008) was successful in terms of growing their club base by 20%, with new county boards established in Mayo, Kerry and Donegal.

The hope is that by 2015, the formation of boards in Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim and Longford will give them a 32 county spread.

Cork dual star Mary O’Connor is Director of Camogie, working in tandem with five Regional Directors and recently Mayo ladies footballer Claire Egan was appointed as Director of Communication and Marketing.

Central to their effort in growing the game is the ‘Player Pathway’ strategy , described as a six-phase model of ‘a player’s journey through camogie.’

“We have been focusing on developing young players from the age they take up the game — usually around six — right through to retirement as a player and then continuing an involvement in the association,’’ stated Joan O’Flynn .

“The idea is that coaches, members and players would be able to identify what kind of skills a player should be acquiring at different levels.”

While Ladies Football continues to thrive at home and abroad, the camogie president doesn’t see the two sports being in competition.

“That question is put to me quite a lot and my answer is that we are both in the same business of trying to get young females to play Gaelic games.

“When you look at the demographics, there are 400,000 girls aged between 5 and 15 on the island, so there’s more than enough for both of us there. As it stands, only a fraction of those are playing sport, so the more we can get girls playing sport the more each of our associations will benefit. I don’t think it’s healthy to be seeing ourselves as ‘opposition’ to each other.’’

Among the motions to be debated at Congress is one from the Central Council which proposes to make helmets compulsory for training and games. Based on the GAA standard, the idea is that the rule would come into force at the beginning of next year if successful.

“To be truthful there is a very high level of helmet-wearing in camogie because it’s mandatory for under-18’s anyway. So, any player who takes up camogie is going to come into the game wearing a helmet, but we are conscious that there are a number of players who don’t.’’

Joan O’Flynn agrees that the successful implementation of their Development Plan will be dependant on all elements of the association working in unison. In other words, it will require the full-time team, national voluntary committees, provincial councils and county boards to all get behind it and ‘drive it.’

“Roadmaps can just sit in the glove compartments of cars or they can actually help you on the journey. So, hopefully ours is a fully-fledged sat nav system and we’ll get to our destination by 2015.

“I think there has been serious progress in recent years and much more of an awareness of being proactive and going out there and introducing the game to people who have no background in camogie.

“We need to be missionary about the game and to be advocates for the game and draw people into it. People enjoy the game and have been thrilled at the skill levels, the competitiveness and the athleticism. They see it as not only an attractive sport to play but also an attractive sport to watch!’’

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