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The GAA & the Challenge of Rural Depopulation

  • 17-01-2022 4:01pm
    Registered Users Posts: 2,600 ✭✭✭

    I was catching up on the Mayo GAA Blog/Mayo News podcast last week, they have an episode about rural depopulation (link below) which makes for sobering reading for small rural GAA clubs across the country and on the western seaboard in particular. In the first 15 mins or so, they give details about the decrease in the number of primary school children in some schools - up to 50% decline in some since the early 90s:

    Stream episode The GAA & the Challenge of Rural Depopulation | Mayo News Football Podcast 2021 E44 by themayonews podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

    As background for anyone who's not from Mayo, this discussion was prompted by the story earlier in the year where Lacken were beaten by 50 points in the first round of the championship and subsequently pulled out altogether (they contested a county final as recently as 1984):

    Lacken facing an uncertain future (

    Are amalgamations the only way to go for these small clubs or will working from home help to save some of them? Do some of the bigger towns around the country need to have new GAA clubs setup to provide for all the extra kids living in towns these days?


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,241 ✭✭✭✭Fr Tod Umptious

    I had a listen to it just now.

    What really stood out for me as someone who grew up in Mayo in the '80s is how the population of the towns has boomed.

    Back in the '80s the every area was losing population both rural and urban, but now to hear about huge population increases in what I used to consider one horse towns like Ballinrobe and Claremorris really stood out.

    I don't know what the solution is by the way.

    I think it's just the continued natural progression of people moving off the land, people from more rural areas move to big cities for college or work and then if the opportunity arises to settle down closer to home they go to the towns rather than all the way back to the home place, because they are used of the amenities of the town offers.

    It's kind of a halfway house.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,501 ✭✭✭beggars_bush

    Neglect of small villages by councils and planners across Ireland

    If many small villages had serviced sites provided for sale, at an affordable price to build your own family home, by the county councils it would save many of the rural services open - schools, shops/PO, pubs.

    Its very viable now with remote working.

    Councils are too short sighted to do this.

    Maybe a few GAA clubs need to take this on. Buy land and sell sites to families to move into the area and build.

  • Registered Users Posts: 851 ✭✭✭Deskjockey

    Haha, Gaa clubs can barely pay to get the grass cut with the money from the weekly lotto, never mind getting into property speculation

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,501 ✭✭✭beggars_bush

    Some clubs are well run.

    GAA clubs need to think where will their next U8 group come from in 5-8 years time

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,486 ✭✭✭Uncle Pierre

    In all fairness, rural clubs in the sort of areas being talked about here aren't sitting on the mounds of cash you'd need to get into land speculation, no matter how well they're run.

    You get your next generation of U8 players by making your training, games and facilities attractive, and by establishing a good link with your local school(s). Not by buying land at one price and then selling it at another to somebody who might not end up having children at all, or who it turns out has no interest in GAA at all and no intention of sending children to play with the club in the area.

    Do you propose having some sort of clause written into the sale of the site that the purchaser must have x number of children and must send them to play football/hurling for x number of years?????

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,501 ✭✭✭beggars_bush

    you won't have a club unless you have families

    It was a suggestion. The GAA clubs should be lobbying for the councils to provide such sites in villages

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Fully agree the "houses for players" idea wouldn't work but in addition to the above the clubs should try and see what their area has that could potentially attract people to live in the area and what's stopping people moving there etc. They could link up with other local organisations to develop remote working hubs etc, ensure there's broadband available, chase down whatever rural grants are going for amenities etc.

    No one else is going to save these clubs or communities apart from themselves. It's a massive issue for Ireland generally, not just the GAA.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,486 ✭✭✭Uncle Pierre

    "Clubs should be lobbying for the councils to provide such sites in villages" is a very different suggestion to clubs should be buying and selling sites themselves.

    I get where you're coming from all the same, and yes, clubs have a role in trying to attract people to an area in the first place, and then actually getting them involved with the club. There's a case not too far from me where a small club is struggling for numbers but Council is currently proposing a fairly large-scale housing development in the area. The Council could put houses and therefore people in the area all right, but it'll still be up to the club to get them involved.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,979 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    A lot of people won't live in a small village sites or not. I grew up in a city and they thoughts of even living in a smaller town scare the life out of me never mind a little village.

    Amalgamation is probably the only way for some clubs and there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing stays the same forever

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,075 ✭✭✭PeggyShippen

    Amalgamation is a bad idea. The Cork and Kerry divisional system is best. It allows small clubs compete and then the better players represent their division. It keeps the integrity of the club. Now obviously Cork clubs can nearly all field 15 ...for the clubs only producing a few kids...well that's a hard one.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,778 ✭✭✭Sunny Disposition

    The Cork/Kerry system is a great model I think, keep the club intact.

    This is an issue in West Clare as well, but I think it is turning, remote working has changed things to an extent, but it’ll take a few years before schools/clubs notice it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,979 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    That only works if the clubs can get 20+ players together as you say so the divisional thing doesnt apply. Whats wrong with amalgamation ? seems to be some sort of weird shame about it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,075 ✭✭✭PeggyShippen

    With amalgamation you are losing a club in essence. The tradition and ethos are lost. All those years of solely playing for your area are gone. A new club is formed usually with a ridiculously long name incorporating both clubs joining becomes a mish mash. In trying to preserve a link what happens isn't the best. Really if clubs are joining they should pick a totally new name and colors and start afresh

    I'd much prefer a club stays at it is even with reduced numbers. There are issues in Clare where fairly medium sized clubs have joined and then dominated underage . Inagh/kilnamona . We also have issues where clubs on the edge of West Clare hoover up any hurler within a 40 mile radius..Ballyea. the divisional system is a better way forward...preserves our clubs, offers top quality games. Unfortunately it takes investment and vitality and enthusiastic. Clare GAA have been struggling on all 3 fronts recently but green shoots are reappearing

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  • Registered Users Posts: 25,979 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    Again the divisional system pulls from active clubs like as if they are a mini county panel. They have nothing got to do with what happens when a club cant get 15 players on a pitch at senior or underage. I agree though that clubs should be smart about what to call themselves if they join up but you could be losing 2 clubs for fear of "losing a club in essence" if the numbers are not there

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,507 ✭✭✭recyclebin

    Divisional teams can't play in the provincial club championship so you end up with the runner up entering it, or like Kerry, two championships. I don't like either of those options.