Ulster club hurling needs to break down county boundaries says Armagh County Hurling Officer David O'Brien
ULSTER club hurling needs to break down traditional county boundaries and establish regional leagues to make progress, says Armagh County Hurling Officer David O’Brien.
This season Armagh will welcome clubs from Louth, Monaghan, Tyrone and Fermanagh into their league and O’Brien is convinced that the expansion will help the game to flourish in all five counties.
The revamped league started last night with a round of fixtures involving six of the seven clubs in the Orchard county and after a round-robin series the Orchard county clubs will split into two divisions and be joined by their neighbours.
“We need more matches in Armagh,” O’Brien explained.
“The Armagh clubs will all play each other and the top four go into Division One and the other three clubs go into Division Two. Castleblayney (Monaghan), who were in the All-Ireland junior club final, come into Division One along with Lisbellaw, of Fermanagh who would be quite strong. Omagh St Enda’s (Tyrone) and Pearse Og, from Louth, go into Division Two.
“There are another couple of clubs looking to come in but they haven’t got permission from the Ulster Council. Next year we are hoping to bring in another two Louth clubs and another Monaghan club and one or two of the stronger Tyrone clubs. That would make a very good league.
“It’s giving everyone more games and hopefully we can expand it and move on.”
Armagh hurling has made real strides in recent years and the county’s clubs were behind the efforts to encourage new blood into the fold. O’Brien and Jimmy McKee, from Armagh CCC, facilitated their request and O’Brien is optimistic that an increased number of games coupled with increased competition will lead to a higher standard of hurling.
“You need to be playing matches and it doesn’t matter what the sport is; whether it’s Gaelic Football, soccer, hurling… The more matches you play the better you get and the more interest there is,” he said.
“It’ll also mean that the leagues are more competitive because you can’t have a situation where boys are training all year but they only have five or six matches. We need regular games whereby the level of commute isn’t too far.
“We have clubs coming in from Monaghan and Louth but Dundalk to Camlough, or Dundalk to Middletown or Keady isn’t far. That’s where hurling has to go in Ulster, hurling has to go regional.
“This might be called the Armagh League but it is a regional league whereby clubs in a relatively short commuting distance can travel and play each other.
“Castleblayney are quite strong in Monaghan at the moment and the likes of Inniskeen wouldn’t be too far behind them and they’re another club we hope will come in. Then there is Naomh Monnina and Mattock Rangers in Louth and the two big Tyrone clubs would be Dungannon (currently playing in the Antrim league) and Carrickmore.
“That’s the plan and there is a lot of good work going on at the moment. It’s all about getting more matches, you need to playing games at a decent level to be progressing.
“Carrickmore are in the Armagh underage leagues this year and hopefully we can expand that to bring other clubs into the underage leagues as well. If you only have five or six teams at a particular age group, you need more than that to keep it competitive.”