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Messages - Betsy Gray

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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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