Hurling should be prioritised to grow the game insists Armagh's Cahal Carvill
THE future of hurling in Ulster has been the subject of much debate in recent days, and Armagh’s Cahal Carvill feels the small ball game “needs to be prioritised above all other sports” by the Ulster Council.
Last November the provincial body decided to discontinue the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship for three years, although it is only in the past week that this has come to the wider public attention.
Indeed, several inter-county players – including Carvill – have taken to social media to express their surprise at the move.
The Middletown forward was on the Armagh team that lost to Antrim in last year’s Ulster SHC decider and he feels that, rather than temporarily removing the competition, it deserves to be given more of a profile.
“''I am deeply disappointed by the decision and the way the whole process was handled. It leaves a very sour taste in the mouth,” said Carvill.
''I am not aware of any consultation taking place nor any engagement with the teams involved. In my view hurling in Ulster needs to be prioritised above all other sports.
''It should be given the correct amount of resourcing and profile to ensure the sport succeeds and participation grows. The key is to get the kids excited about playing hurling as well as ensuring every child in Ulster that wants to play hurling, no matter where they are from, has the ability to do so.”
And the 30-year-old believes a new steering group should be formed to try and breathe new life into hurling in Ulster.
He continued: ''There is so much competition in Ulster counties with other sports, I suggest a specialist committee made up of the right, passionate hurling people come together charged with investigating participation numbers, identifying how to best grow the game and laying out plans for developing the game going forward.
''The project should be based on inclusion, involvement and participation through extended school programs and club development and expansion.
''The secret is to get the youth involved and get them excited to play our national game.
''All areas of Ulster where hurling is or was played should be given the resources to expand and particular consideration should be given to bringing hurling to new audiences from all sectors of the community in Ulster.''
Free-scoring Tyrone forward Damian Casey held ambitions to play in the Ulster SHC, having only ever featured in the secondary shield competition, and believes it is a bad move to park the provincial competition.
He said: “It’s not a good idea to stop the competition. To stop a ‘struggling’ competition, I think, will be very hard to get it going again.
“In the short term, promotion would be the big thing - possibly having the game before an Ulster football championship game? Better exposure for the sport.
“Long term I would think the idea should be on underage structures and new clubs. Looking at Tyrone, there are five or six hurling clubs in the county as opposed to 50 plus football clubs.
“I wouldn’t be 100 per cent sure on the rest of the Ulster counties’ numbers but I would think the situation is the same throughout. As long as this is the case, hurling is always going to struggle.
“Slaughtneil are a prime example that if the correct structures are put in place, hurling and football can work together. If this could be pushed on a wider scale throughout Ulster, it would help the hurling scene at both club and county level.”