“Kate Middleton has more training in hurling than many young children”

Liam Griffin has proposals underway to try to tackle the continuing decline in levels of participation in Gaelic games, particularly hurling and camogie.

Wexford’s 1996 All-Ireland SHC-winning manager drew up two motions, one to fully identify the problem and the other to begin to fix it. The intention is that they will be on the Clár of the Annual Congress next year.

Griffin had first been alarmed by ESRI’s 2013 ‘Keeping Them In the Game’ report which showed that the dropout rate for hurling/camogie between the ages of 21 and 26 was 60% and Gaelic football was 70% in due to loss of interest.

He was further disturbed by last year’s study from Sheffield Hallam University commissioned by Sport Ireland, ‘Researching the Value of Sport in Ireland’, which revealed hurling, a game which had been played by 2 % of the Irish population in 2008 while among the top 10 in sporting activities, had dropped out of the top 10 in 2019 – Gaelic football retained its place at 2%. These figures are from the Irish Sports Monitor 2019.

In his work with the Club Players Association, Griffin pointed to these concerning statistics. The first motion passed by his club St Mary’s, Rosslare calls on fixture analysts to conduct an annual survey of turnouts across all codes and levels.

“We need to start collecting intelligence so that we ourselves know what is going on and every club should have a drop-out database. If the GAA people don’t accept the ESRI report or the Sports Council/Sheffield Hallam University report, then we have to produce our own.

“The organization has a responsibility to be responsible for the growth and development of hurling, but what we’re doing isn’t working, we’re not expanding it. There should be a report on each county’s performance against the association’s fundamentals each year. Organize a collection of information rather than no one being held accountable. It’s not unfair to ask that, is it?

The second motion calls for every GAA club to be required to have or establish a hurling crèche for children up to and including 12 years of age. To accommodate football clubs that have a hurling relationship, it will be modified for Wexford’s annual convention at the end of this year.

“If we are truly a Gaelic Athletic Association and truly enjoy hurling and football, we have a responsibility to maintain both sports,” Griffin insists. “All children in the country have the right to play hurling. It’s either part of what we do or it’s not.

“Kate Middleton has had more training in hurling than a lot of young children,” he says in reference to the Duchess of Cambridge’s visit with her husband Prince William to the Salthill-Knocknacarra GAA club in March 2020.

“Muhammad Ali comes to town and gets yelled at. The Chinese vice president is going home with one. That’s all hypocrisy. I don’t want to diminish the point I’m making, but is it wrong to say these things ? ”

In this newspaper in early January, outgoing national director of hurling development Martin Fogarty – whose position has yet to be announced – spoke candidly about the challenges the game faces in non-toggle areas.

“The word I wrote after reading this article was ‘frustration,'” Griffin says. “Are these positions symbolic or is there real bite with the support system underneath to do it? If so, then we’re honest in what we do, but other than that, it’s dishonesty and we’re never going to take hurling outside of the traditional backcountry.

Time and again, Griffin hears gushing compliments about the game, but with little action to exploit its popularity as a spectator sport.

“Why should our great national game be played by less than 2% of the population? Why should we give up the top 10 if we have the best field game? It is often said that this is our position, but is it true or are we kidding ourselves?

“It’s not difficult or awkward, other than to say please can we try to introduce the game to every kid in the country to pick up a hurley and play the game. I am involved in different GAA circles and how many people say they would have loved to play the game but never had the chance, we should give everyone that chance.

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