Thursday, June 20, 2019

By Kieran Murphy

WITHOUT even playing a game for the Carlow senior hurlers this year, Paul Coady has struck a blow for hurling’s weaker counties. The Mount Leinster Rangers man has condemned the GAA for their lack of support for the likes of Carlow, Antrim, Westmeath, Kerry and Laois who he feels are not being given all the support they need to develop into top-tier teams

“The best days of my life have come through the GAA,” Paul told The Nationalist on Sunday. “I love the GAA and I love playing the sport but I don’t like the organisation at all. What it does. It doesn’t run well. There is so much wrong with it. It really frustrates me.”

Coady posted a 900-word thread on twitter last Thursday in which he laid out his concerns. It instantly garnered huge attention around the country with over 180,000 people reading the tweet.

He pointed out only nine counties have won the All-Ireland senior hurling championship in the last 100 years.

“Hurling has the top nine counties all at a relatively similar level. For 100 years aside from Offaly and Antrim, no other teams have ever featured in the All Ireland. The GAA have had 100 years to bridge that gap from the other 21 counties and have never done it? Is this not a massive failure?” Coady asked on twitter.

Carlow battled at the top level in 2019, maintaining their status in Division 1 of the league, however, they finished bottom of the Leinster hurling round-robin and so return to the second tier of the championship for 2020.

He says now is the time for Carlow to make a stand.

“I didn’t want to say anything during the Leinster campaign. Colm [Bonnar] could have said it after the match and the headline would have been Bonnar calls for… Then it would have been all swept under the covers. I wanted it to continue and make a bit of noise. A manager after a match saying something is not enough to gain a bit of traction.”

On Saturday, Coady watched Laois and Westmeath qualify for the Joe McDonagh Cup final. One of these will take Carlow’s place in the Leinster senior hurling championship next year while The Barrowsiders will return to the second tier. He says his county, or any other county, cannot improve within these structures.

“When is it going to change?” he asked. “At the moment we are the closest and now Laois could come again for a year and fall out. If they go back down again they could experience the low Offaly experienced this year.”

He says it is imperative that there is more support given to weaker counties for coaching and development. It’s a problem that is particularly obvious in Carlow where the number of senior club teams has dropped to just four.

He says Carlow cope as best they can with reduced numbers in training which inhibits the ability to improve.

“We had 26 all year. If four or five are not able to train there could be 20 training at times. It’s very hard when you have only that number in training. You cannot play a match, you cannot work on tactics. It is a huge advantage having a panel of 36 and being able to work on things.”

Coady also criticised fellow Carlow man and Director General of the GAA Tom Ryan.

“He says Dublin receive more [in funding] because they bring in more of the crowds yet they have twice the average crowd but five times the average funding,” said an irritated Coady.

While most of the reaction to Coady’s online post has been positive, there has also been some dissent.

“A couple of people commented that money doesn’t make Dublin successful,” Coady said. “They are totally ignoring the elephant in the room.

Perhaps one of the strongest parts of his argument is to highlight the level of positivity a year in the Liam MacCarthy Cup has brought to Carlow.

“This year Carlow hurling had attendances for the first time in my career, it had colour, it had kids playing hurling more than ever, it had a buzz within the county. Take the Liam MacCarthy away and Carlow hurling looses that. Does Carlow hurling go quietly and make as little noise as possible, take this as our peak, thanks for the memories and just watch as the county will eventually slip backwards and spend the next 100 years where we’ve spent the last 100?”

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