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Messages - Betsy Gray

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: May 03, 2022, 11:02:31 PM »
From the posts I have read following Sundayís match one thing is for certain, no one really knows where to start in terms of improving our fortunes.

In terms of the County Board I actually think they do a decent job in running the club game in the County. Where they could definitely improve is in running the inter county aspect. And that goes from top to bottom.

As a previous poster has said the reality is the clubs and schools are not producing the quality of player we once produced in County Down. That said, there are still some very good players in the County and my gut feeling is we should not be at the low ebb we are currently at. A few points that spring to mind in terms of areas to improve:

1. Player retention. The turnover from year to year (and even within this season alone ) is far too high. Every county needs to get its best players on the pitch and at present we arenít doing that. How many times have we seen a young player break through and look promising only to disappear without anyone really knowing what happened. The one that springs to mind here is Owen McCabe. I thought he had great potential. Most successful counties have a settled base of players with limited transition from year to year.
2. Coaching. Both in the clubs & County squads. We do not seem to be producing high level coaches. A good few of our division 1 teams are managed by men from outside the county. On the flip side I do not think there are many, if any, coaches from County Down coaching teams outside the county. Conor Laverty seems to be the only coach who is sought after by any team outside of our county. The next senior county manager needs to be carefully picked with a view to persuading players to commit.
3. Administration of county football team. When down were successful they were set apart from other counties by being ahead of the game in terms of administration of the county team. We have all heard the Maurice Hayes stories etc. Down were at one stage innovative and creative in terms of organising their county structures and setting up teams for success. Anyone looking in from outside at present now sees a set up that appears to be fairly amateur at best. Down were clearly no where near as fit as Monaghan on Sunday. Until basic issues like that are overcome the whole set up is going nowhere fast. 
4. Interest in the inter county game. There are various counties where players have always had a take it or leave it attitude to the inter county game. Derry is probably a good example. I do not believe this was the case in Down until the last few years. We are now being faced with various inter county standard players deciding the do not want to play inter county. Iím sure there are various reasons for that but surely one of the main reasons is that the whole set up and administration of the inter county teams is nowhere near as professional as it should be. In fact i would be fairly certain that the reason a few Kilcoo men have failed to commit to inter county is because the inter county set up would fall far behind the stand of organisation and coaching they receive within their own club.

There are some bright spots in the gloomy picture. Murdock and Magill both look like solid inter county players. The new training centre (despite the location) will hopefully improve things also.

The Down hurlers have taken up the mantle this year and made great progress. I know little about either inter county set up but from outside it appears the hurlers are showing what progress can be made with a well organised management and a group of players who are willing to buy into the inter county game. Itís simple but it seems to work.

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: April 27, 2022, 02:45:45 PM »
I still cannot get my head around the whole Ballykinlar project bar the land is cheap. I think the wobbler pointed out that the British army picked it for a base because it was remote and hard to get to therefore easy to defend. If the county board are serious about an accessible training facility then surely it needs to be near the A1. I see a previous poster suggested Annaclone. Banbridge Annaclone direction would be the ideal location given the proximity to A1. Obviously that does not work well for the hurlers and means both main bases would be in south down. There is definitely scope for a central facility in east down. But I cannot see how ballykinlar is the proper place for the main county training facility.

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: April 24, 2022, 10:44:07 PM »
Did Bredagh win the A feile yesterday?

They'd be favourites for the hurling one this weekend as well....

Might need to move the centre of excellence further north....

I know that was a tongue in cheek post but the reality is the potential for mass participation in Gaelic games in the greater Belfast area is not being seized. Bredagh and Carryduff are both well run clubs with huge numbers but they simply cannot be expected to serve the entire population of greater south belfast.

There is a serious amount of people moving from rural areas, particularly west of the Bann, who simply drift away from the GAA when they settle in Belfast. Not because they lack interest but because they are well aware that the existing clubs are well over subscribed with players. It appears that no one had any idea that such a number of GAA minded people lived in the East Belfast area yet within a year they had entered teams in all 4 codes. I would estimate that there are enough non affiliated GAA minded people in greater South Belfast to cater for another 2 clubs.

P.S. I donít think this is just a problem for Down GAA it is a problem for the GAA centrally given the demographic shift.

The bigger problem is pitches, we have to pay Belfast CC a fortune to rent pitches, East Belfast are using at least three locations, and Carryduff have land and look to be developing a third pitch. Green spaces are at a premium in Belfast and any that do become available we would be up against developers. Well, that's 3 wins out of three for our seniors, just need to keep that focus for every game and see what happens.

No doubt pitches and playing facilities are the massive problem. That is why I think it is difficult to point the finger. It is an issue for the GAA centrally to look at in terms of securing funding for land for pitches in places where facilities are lacking. Or at the very least applying pressure to public bodies to secure access to public pitches.

I am not sure if the urban shift is having a similar effect in other cities but the difference in Belfast is that Gaelic games are now thriving in areas where they were traditionally barely existing. The flood of people migrating to south and east Belfast is going to continue. The question for the GAA is whether they want the next generation participating in Gaelic games. The current clubs do outstanding work. But no matter how outstanding they are they cannot be expected to manage and cater for the sheer volume of population.

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: April 22, 2022, 10:00:56 PM »
Did Bredagh win the A feile yesterday?

They'd be favourites for the hurling one this weekend as well....

Might need to move the centre of excellence further north....

I know that was a tongue in cheek post but the reality is the potential for mass participation in Gaelic games in the greater Belfast area is not being seized. Bredagh and Carryduff are both well run clubs with huge numbers but they simply cannot be expected to serve the entire population of greater south belfast.

There is a serious amount of people moving from rural areas, particularly west of the Bann, who simply drift away from the GAA when they settle in Belfast. Not because they lack interest but because they are well aware that the existing clubs are well over subscribed with players. It appears that no one had any idea that such a number of GAA minded people lived in the East Belfast area yet within a year they had entered teams in all 4 codes. I would estimate that there are enough non affiliated GAA minded people in greater South Belfast to cater for another 2 clubs.

P.S. I donít think this is just a problem for Down GAA it is a problem for the GAA centrally given the demographic shift.

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: September 16, 2021, 04:14:52 PM »
Hopefully we see a weekend of decent championship action.

Tyrone's victory on Saturday really hit home just how far we have fallen in terms of the Ulster and all Ireland football stage. Since we last won an Ulster in 1994 Tyrone Tyrone have produced a team to win 3 all irelands then produced another team that has gone on to win an all Ireland. And it all seems further away than ever.

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Down / Re: What to do about Belfast
« on: January 01, 2021, 07:51:35 PM »
It is reasonable to have a discussion about expanding the GAA to the south and east of Belfast but some of the suggestions on this thread make little sense. The Four Winds area, which is not exactly a GAA heartland, has always been divided between Bredagh and Carryduff, with both benefitting from the arrangement through a nominal border along Newton Park. Attempting to introduce a third club there is not viable at any level, with the proposal that it could be based on Ballymaconaghy Road, which is little more than a couple of fields away from Carryduff's rapidly expanding complex, illustrating the point. Playing Gaelic games at the Hydebank pitches, beside Belvoir estate, is another non-starter, with previous attempts ending badly.  The logical way forward is encouraging the existing growth of Bredagh, Carryduff and St Paul's, with the new East Belfast club filling the gap between them. If East Belfast can find a permanent home, which is not going to be easy, there will be a decent platform for the development of the GAA at the northern end of our county.

The points in relation to facilities, or to put it more accurately the lack of potential facilities, is definitely the greatest obstacle for potential new clubs.

What I do not agree with is the focus on geographical area. Urban areas, particularly cities, do not subscribe to the geographical rules which govern membership of rural clubs. The reason for starting the thread was not regarding additional clubs in a geographical sense it. The issue at hand is the number of players within the exiting catchment areas and whether additional clubs are needed within those areas to satisfy the demand for players seeking to play adult football.

In west Belfast it is common to have clubs basically on top of each other. In the case of St Paulís, Rossa and Sarsfields their pitches sit side by side.

The GAA population in South Belfast is now huge. The population could easily sustain 5 clubs playing adult football on a Friday/Saturday night as opposed to the existing 3 clubs.

The lack of opportunity to play senior football is a problem that is seriously underestimated by the wider GAA membership in County Down.

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Down / Re: What to do about Belfast
« on: December 28, 2020, 08:07:09 PM »
Might come across rude here but I don't mean to but what is the question of the post? Is it why aren't Down doing better with the population we have? Or is it about the lack of numbers of players within the club scene?

Sorry if I didnít make that clear Mourne Red. The point of the post relates to participation in Gaelic games generally in south & east Belfast. Of course it will feed into the potential quality of the Down senior teams but that would be a benefit to be reaped by the next generation of Down gaels. The issue for now is the significant amount of people living in these areas who are GAA people but are not currently involved.

The fact that East Belfast now have teams playing in all codes shows that the numbers are there. The East Belfast club have drawn their pool of players from people living in the area who were not involved with a club. None of the local existing clubs lost members to the new club. But for David McGreevy being brave enough to stick his hand up and start a new club the majority of those members would not be involved in GAA and quite possibly never would have been involved again in their lives.

I do not have any data to back it up but would hazard a guess that there would be 3/4 times the amount of unaffiliated players living in south Belfast as opposed to east Belfast. To answer one of the other posts, it wouldnít be muscling in on Bredagh and Carryduff. It would in fact be helping to share the burden of providing the outlet to participate in Gaelic games in the area.

The west Belfast argument set out above is irrelevant. In fact itís the opposite to the issue here. The playing population is falling in the west of the city simply because the west of the city is spreading outwards towards Lisburn and up the mountain. South Belfast has the opposite problem. It has a massively expanding Gaelic population with limited outlets for the provision of games.

The main aim of the original post was simply to generate a bit of discussion. There are a lot of ideas put forward on the ordinary thread about how to improve GAA within our county. Given that participation is key tapping into a ready made population should be high up the list of priorities.

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Down / What to do about Belfast
« on: December 28, 2020, 11:46:00 AM »
There has been a lot of talk in GAA circles recently about the dominance of Dublin and how a large reason for their success is simply a numbers game. Huge population leads to increased participation which leads to greater chances of success at elite level. There was clearly a huge emphasis placed on securing increased participation in the capital. A solution was proposed to solve that issue. While successful it has created a monster. A very successful monster.

Down currently has a massive participation problem on the County Down side of the River Lagan. Iím not just sure anyone realises it.

It is no secret that at present South Belfast has a rapidly growing nationalist population. For the sake of this thread I am talking only about the County Down side. The area from the Ormeau bridge to Carryduff and stretching eastwards towards Holywood.

For the past 10-15 years the streets around the ormeau road, Ravenhill Road, Rosetta, Four Winds has saw a huge increase in Nationalist population as people from across Ireland ( but mainly Tyrone, Derry, Fermanagh) have made the area their home. It is well publicised that the local primary schools are now struggling to cope with the numbers. Bredagh has clearly benefited greatly from this increase in population given the sheer size of their current enrolled membership.

Of greater concern to those of us concerned with the fortunes of Down GAA is the number of people not currently participating in Gaelic games at any level having made the area their home.

The main outlook of the County Board, and the GAA generally, should be to maximise participation is Gaelic games. As we have seen with Dublin, if you have the numbers participating the excellence should naturally follow on. At present the lack of participation by a large portion of the population in South Belfast is the elephant sitting in the corner of the Down County Office.

In doing some very basic research around this point I came across a 2015 document published by the Down & Connor diocese. It gave the number of enrolled Catholics in each parish. Now I know this is a very crude way to measure The GAA supporting population but it was the only rough reference tool I could find.

Broadly speaking there is a club for every 1500-1800 registered population. For example,

Loughinisland - 1416
Lower Mourne (Glasdrumman and Ballymartin) - 2874
Kilcoo - 1066

The one that sticks out from the group is Downpatrick with a population of 8768 and only one club.

Looking then at Belfast the scale of the issue becomes clear.

Holy Rosary & St Bernadettes which is essentially Bredagh territory has a combined population of 11557. Drumbo and Carryduff has a population of 9690. The parishes which are now more or less serviced by the East Belfast GAA Club are St Matthews, St Colmcilles and St Anthonyís. THe combined registered population there is 13,709. Until this year there was no club to provide an outlet for participation in Gaelic games in the latter 3 parishes.

The above numbers would have an added warning in that those living in the more rural communities are much more likely to formally register with the parish than those moving to live in the city. From what I have garnered so far most of those usually donít register with the parish until children come along.

I would estimate that there are currently hundreds of young adults living in the south Belfast area who are currently not participating in Gaelic games at any level. A snapshot of the problem can be seen by the sheer number of people who transferred to the newly formed East Belfast club. I would be fairly certain that those outside Belfast would have laughed at the prospect of forming an East Belfast club until it was done.

It is correct that there are clubs in the area but the reality is that those clubs are now under subscribed. With the populations involved it is surely not acceptable that only 30 men take to the field each Friday night to play adult senior football with the same number of ladies taking to the field on a Saturday for the ladies senior league. Before someone says it, yes there are 2nds and 3rds but we all know itís just not the same.

This is the greatest problem currently facing the GAA in County Down. The question is, does anyone have any idea about how to go about starting to fix it.

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: December 20, 2020, 09:58:49 PM »
If you think that the guys you listed are any better or should be coaching our u17s then fair enough. I'd politely disagree.
You're slating the current management team very readily.there are very few alternatives and the cult of coach unfortunately seems to hold serious currency these days. He who shouts loudest and most often will always draw attention.

Whilst it's disappointing the 17 lost today I think its more worrying how little of our schools are making any impression at ulster colleges level Across the board

Hit the nail on the head there. And possibly add to that Down players do not appear to feature prominently in the Sigerson Cup at present.

As I stated above, it looks like we are just gong through a patch where we are not producing the players.

Its probably also fair to say that we have not been producing very good coaches in the county for a number of years now. Kilcoo have been doing well at club level but almost their entire coaching team is made up of men from outside the County. I could be wrong but I do not think there have been any coaches from Down finding success with clubs outside our own county (save for Poacher's relatively successful stint with Carlow).

It is good to see some of the younger generation trying to take steps towards becoming coaches. Hopefully they find some success going forward.

Conor Laverty clearly has a great interest in coaching so hopefully he can follow that through with some success. My only concern about him is the baggage he potentially brings to the role but hopefully that won't surface.

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Down / Re: Down Club Hurling & Football
« on: December 20, 2020, 07:16:58 PM »
Disappointing result for the minor team. We just do not seem to be creating proper inter county standard footballers anymore.

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