Belfast Telegraph

GAA clubs feeling the pinch

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With Declan Bogue

There was a time in the middle of the last decade, when the Ulster club gaelic football league was seen as a bold, revolutionary move.

Juiced-up on stories of the fanatical devotion of Tyrone and Armagh players when their rivalry was at its zenith, the methods of preparation at club level evolved at a rate of knots. A lot of club coaches got left behind and their heads were spinning because of the increased expectations players demanded.

Nowadays, some of the backrooms within clubs that are not much more than a crossroads and a post office, outstrip some county set-ups. More power to these clubs for their ambition and ability to fund it.

However, more and more clubs are truly feeling the effects of the economic downturn. At first, the young footballers and hurlers of Ulster were happy to ride out the recession, putting their clubs before emigration.

As emigration has sadly become a necessity, teams are becoming decimated. The notion of reserve teams is severely threatened.

This week, the Ulster Council sent out the fixture list for the Ulster football leagues. What was once considered ideal pre-season preparation has lost its appeal. Eleven teams have entered at senior level; there are no clubs from Cavan, Fermanagh or Donegal.

To take part in a league of this kind requires a team bus and for the lucky, post-match meals. Very few clubs have that kind of money to throw around anymore.

One motion to a county convention over the winter proposed that the county board would not permit any club to go under. This is the reality we are dealing with.

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