Hurling & Camogie

Jarlath Burns: GAA must help new hurling clubs get off the ground in football-dominated areas

GAA president has established a new hurling development committee
GAA president has established a new hurling development committee (THOMAS MCMULLAN)

THE GAA must find ways to remove obstacles to new hurling clubs becoming established in football-dominated areas, according to president Jarlath Burns.

His sons, Jarly Og and Fionnan, plays for Craobh Rua, which draws largely from the south Armagh area, and Burns is determined to explore the will for more clubs to be formed in similar areas north of the line “from Dublin to Castlebar”.

A new hurling development committee will get to work, with the Silverbridge man hopeful outgoing chairman Colm Nolan will remain involved, but the aim of this group will be “specifically to do with the setting up of new clubs”.

“We want to create a toolkit for that.

“There are a lot of really inspirational people there, pig-headed people who didn’t care what happened, they were going to set up a hurling club. Some of them are the guys who set up Craobh Rua, the hurling club in south Armagh. They know the pitfalls.

“If you draw a line from Dublin to Castlebar north of that, I think we could do a lot better. Football is so established in those places that people get set in their ways.

“People see problems in setting up hurling that don’t exist and what I have done with this hurling development committee is take members of clubs that have been set up in those areas. There won’t be any big names like on the football review committee.

“These are just brave people, who have set up hurling clubs in areas where football is dominant and have succeeded. It’s a very, very long-term project, which will see probably no benefits in three years, maybe in 10 but that’s the way the GAA need to be thinking – 20 years ahead.

“Maybe then we’ll be saying this Tiomáint initiative that was started made a difference, made it easy for clubs to set up because even setting up now you have insurance to think of, you have player fees, county affiliation, you have to get a pitch...

“Without more hurling clubs competing within their counties, we will never have more counties competing at the highest level and this is going to be a main focus area during my presidency.

“There are so many obstacles to setting up clubs that we just need to make it easier and take away obstacles and make it an agile process.”

In his first address after taking over from Larry McCarthy at Saturday’s Congress in Newry, the former Armagh captain pointed out that, while he is most readily identified with football, hurling will not be a poor relation during his three years at the helm.

“I know many of you will see me as a president from the Gaelic football tradition at a time when perhaps a hurling man is needed, and I understand that - but you would be wrong.

“I see myself as neither a football or hurling man, but a GAA man. I hail from south Armagh - hardly a hurling stronghold and it is not through any fault of my own though a matter of considerable regret, that I never got the chance to play this amazing game.

“I did ensure however, that my sons would not have this to say and all of them have competed at various levels in school, club and county, with two of them winning county and Ulster club medals and Fionnan gaining an Ulster hurling club Allstar in 2021.

“I say this, not to present myself as any sort of hero against the odds, but to prove that although hurling may not be in my blood, it is in my heart, and I simply love the game.”