Clubs continue to form the bedrock of GAA in parishes

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The importance of the G.A.A. club and the role it plays in our communities cannot be highlighted enough.

At this time of year I believe it's fitting that I should visit the club scene, particularly as the Wexford People under-age championships along with our county leagues are now just up and running.

Over the last two weekends my duties took me on the club scene and there is nothing more satisfying than to see the real volunteers of the G.A.A. bring their experience and time to that level.

This is particularly the case at under-age which so often goes totally unnoticed, while in so many instances it is totally under-appreciated at the top levels of the Association in a county.

While the Wexford G.A.A. supporters made the journey to O'Connor Park in Tullamore on Sunday, I travelled the short distance from Wexford town to Killurin for the Glynn-Barntown versus Oylegate-Glenbrien Wexford People Minor hurling Premier championship game, having 24 hours earlier taken in the Faythe Harriers versus Rathnure All-County Senior hurling league game in Páirc Charman.

All of those I spoke to were not thinking back to 1996, the county's last All-Ireland success, but one got a sense from them just how special it would be should Davy Fitzgerald be able to steer the county back towards silverware, whether it be in the National League or championship.

Many of those I spoke with of course had first-hand experience of '96, but those young players honing their skills on the green sward of Killurin had no memories of a Wexford All-Ireland success.

Little would people have thought at the time that over 20 years and counting would pass without Wexford again lifting the MacCarthy Cup.

But the future of Wexford hurling though, cannot depend on the personality of the Senior manager. The game has roots, but has it spread?

How many clubs and personalities had outlined their antipathy towards hurling and management? But the good news of recent months that Davy and his backroom have generated for Wexford hurling is rapidly spreading through the clubs.

The years may have slipped by, but what I have witnessed over the last couple of weekends is that so many people work so hard for the G.A.A., particularly at club level where they are so far removed from the day-to-day politics which is rampant at the upper echelons of the association in the county.

When I witnessed both Glynn-Barntown and Oylegate-Glenbrien take the pitch for their opening Minor hurling championship game, I could only think of the time and effort put in by so many in small rural parishes to field a team, at a time when rural Ireland is in decline population-wise, which increases the workload on those voluntary people within the clubs.

But there is a future, a positive future, as those two rural clubs demonstrated with the quality of hurling served up.

It was particularly pleasing to see a small rural parish like Oylegate-Glenbrien competing in Premier grade, and even more satisfying is that they more than held their own.

The people working in our G.A.A. clubs in Wexford have shown tremendous dedication over such a long time. They have played such a major part in our communities and by doing so have provided facilities that have benefited so many young boys and girls in our towns and rural parishes.

It's easy to take for granted the work that so many of these people do at so many levels. I have always held the view that those working with our under-age players are very special.

These people do so for all the right reasons and they play such an important part at a crucial stage in the lives of our young players.

Mentors that work with these players can lay the foundations for their long-term association with the G.A.A. and for that reason it's so important that the right people are involved at this level.

I know of so many clubs and people in Wexford that place such a high importance on the development of our young players. It wasn't always that way but those clubs that have placed a heavy focus on this are reaping success now and will do so in the future.

Croke Park tells us, and the Wexford G.A.A. top table echoes, how important the club is, how it's the bedrock of the Association, but if that's the case then can they not find some way of helping the many clubs that are struggling?

Wexford People