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GAA chiefs must go extra mile to drive up interest in club hurling

By Declan Bogue

Published 27/04/2016

Going the distance: Sean Corrigan travels far and wide to turn out for his club Lisbellaw
Going the distance: Sean Corrigan travels far and wide to turn out for his club Lisbellaw

Something caught my eye a few days ago when I was scanning through the Ulster fixtures.

The Division Three Ulster senior hurling league game between Killeavy and Cootehill sent me to Google maps to find out exactly how long that journey would be. It's just over a 90-mile round trip.

Not that long, especially when you consider that there are inter-club games in the Donegal leagues that would represent a lot more diesel burned on the roads.

However, consider how long some of the journeys can be as you go down the leagues.

If Buncrana have to travel to Clonduff, they are adding another 20 miles on that journey both ways. So it is heartening to see that according to the league tables, they have played the most games - eight - despite losing six of them.

In an effort to keep hurling going, the Tain leagues are hosted by the Ulster Council. They were conceived with good intentions to give regular games to club hurlers. Club rivalries have stood the test of time because of how uncomfortably close the clubs are from each other. There simply has never been anything like the thrill of beating your rivals from the other side of the hill. The quality has defined the GAA.

But when a player like Sean Corrigan, who lives in Belfast, makes the 105-minute journey to his club Lisbellaw, before heading on for another hour to a match, it makes you wonder how much longer those lads can stick it. Lisbellaw is now officially the only hurling club in that county, but a couple of weeks ago the county board introduced a new Under-12 league, with five new clubs.

Each county board should look at copying this model. There is no competition fostered like that on your doorstep.

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