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'Saffron Vision' group can inspire the next generation

By Declan Bogue

The comments made by outgoing head of Public Relations of the Ulster Council Ryan Feeney, which appeared in this newspaper yesterday, came at an appropriate time.

Outlining the difficulties experienced by the GAA in inner cities, specifically Belfast, Feeney explained: "The problem is that the GAA traditionally is a very rural organisation. It's very, very hard to define how the organisation works in an urban context.

"The strategic priority for the GAA in Ulster is Belfast and Derry. If we don't crack those two cities over the next 20 years, we are in big trouble."

The good news, however, is that help is at hand. In 20 years' time, Feeney maintains that half the population of Ulster will be living in or around Belfast and Derry. Therefore, those cities need help.

The GAA identified the need for thriving Dublin teams in both codes and have made this a reality through coaches on the ground. Derry and Belfast need this now. No more platitudes, but coaches - and plenty of them.

What strikes us most of all is that the talent has certainly always been there in Antrim, when it can be harnessed.

In 2010, St Gall's produced a football team that were the best side in Ireland by a country mile. Two years later, Loughgiel Shamrocks won their second All-Ireland club title.

A revolution in coaching will come too late for the current incumbents, Frankie Fitzsimons (pictured) with the county footballers and PJ O'Mullan Jnr with the hurlers.

But if the coaches and the funding arrive, children need senior players as role models and teams making the most of themselves.

In that context, the newly elected county board officers, from the 'Saffron Vision' group, have a lot of learning on the job to do.

We wish them the very best of luck.

Belfast Telegraph


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