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Fermanagh hurling facing extinction: Declan McGarry

By Declan Bogue

Published 12/04/2016

Warning: Declan McGarry has called for the GAA to do more
Warning: Declan McGarry has called for the GAA to do more

Fermanagh captain Declan McGarry has accused the GAA of doing little to help hurling's cause in weaker counties and states that unless something drastic is done to restart clubs, the code will be gone within a decade in his county.

Despite winning the Division 3B league title this year with victory over Longford in the final, the Ernemen failed to gain entry to Division 3A after being beaten in Saturday's promotion-relegation play-off against neighbours Tyrone in extra-time.

This situation is unsatisfactory for McGarry. He stated: "It's a poor format and poor planning by the GAA.

"There is a real lack of thought put into it. I don't think they particularly care and to be honest they will not be held to account.

"I mean, to have a four-team league in the first place… They say they want weaker teams to have more games to improve them. But instead you have three games and then even if you win it, you can't go up."

Fermanagh were in a similar scenario last year after winning the Lory Meagher Cup. In order to compete in the Nicky Rackard Cup this summer - the next rung on the hurling ladder - they had to beat Louth in a play-off after the final win over Sligo.

This season, Fermanagh played in a four-team league, with such meagre playing activity wholly unsatisfactory for McGarry, who feels that the GAA are guilty of paying lip service to the hurling code.

"You would expect county boards to lobby on their behalf and make the right changes," he said.

"But there is no real intent or will to change anything. Nobody is going to be held to account because there is such a small playing base that there are hardly any repercussions if the wrong decisions are reached.

"It's just left in the ether. When the GAA throw a proposal out into the open, there is nobody that is going to challenge it."

One interesting facet of Saturday's play-off defeat is that Lisbellaw St Patrick's supplied 14 of the 15 starters, the other player being Francie McBrien of St John's in Antrim.

Lisbellaw are now the sole hurling club in the county, with McGarry believing that the governing attitude towards his game is at an all-time low.

"I don't think hurling is going to exist in the next 10 years in Fermanagh," he stated.

"You have young fellas at under-age level now who are being expected to do two or three-hour round trips during the week to play away matches.

"As an alternative, you could play football and there will be a team two or three miles down the road they will play against.

"Parents will not let their children go away to play all evening if they have school in the morning.

"Unless there are clubs set up in the county and under-age teams put together, it cannot continue. And without the clubs, the county team would obviously not exist."

Belfast Telegraph

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