A fresh approach across the board needed for Limerick football

My recent, “almost” annual visit to the dental surgery of Dr Iarlaith Killian in Castletroy brought with it the usual apprehension beforehand.

But, as has always been the case, since I first walked through his door with a sore tooth in my UL days, I was put completely at ease.

Still, sitting there in the chair awaiting inspection, I always make the same promise to myself. “I’m going to follow every bit of his advice for the rest of the year!”

The same thought runs through my head as I sit into the car and drive away. But as the days go by, that internal monologue gets a little quieter.

Munster GAA Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 19/5/2018 Limerick vs Clare Limerick’s Patrick Begley and Sean McSweeney Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

And a month later it’s a silent whisper. We all fall into that trap. But commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.

The Limerick Football Review Committee delivered their eagerly awaited report last week. It is clear and concise with straightforward, but important recommendations. The report itself has been sent to every club secretary in the county.

I would ask that anyone who has the interests of Limerick football at heart would ensure that this document is discussed in your clubs as a matter of urgency prior to the next board meeting in September.

There will be elements of it that will be encouraging and will require real support. And I’m sure, as with most things in the GAA, there will be recommendations that may raise eyebrows.

It would be a very boring world if everyone agreed the whole time, and a healthy debate is something that has been lacking in football circles in recent times. This report offers the perfect opportunity for that “check-up”.

Of the 18 recommendations, some will have more of an immediate impact, with others falling into the medium to long term category.

Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Semple Stadium, Co. Tipperary 11/5/2019 Tipperary vs Limerick Limerick’s Iain Corbett scores a goal despite Brian Fanning of Limerick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

They hit on every area, from underage/adult club, right through the various school levels, all the way to inter county. There is something for everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Some of the areas that are touched on are operating at almost full throttle in my opinion, and just require small tweaks to what’s already in place. There are areas, however, where there is scope for improvement.

While the creation of a full time Football Development Officer will be a huge support, it would be foolish to think that one person could have the necessary impact on their own.

That change can only come about with numbers across the county embracing the recommendations. Getting qualified key football personnel involved within the club system is crucial.

There is a thirst for knowledge out there, as was seen with the large turnout at the recent Game Based Workshop delivered by Stephen & Dave Lavin in LIT.

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier Round 4 24/7/2010 Limerick vs Cork Limerick’s Stephen Lavin and Paul Kerrigan of Cork Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

That support needs to be made available much more. Having a games schedule that allows players to put into practice what they have covered in training.

To test yourself and compete. You only have to look at the skill levels of near neighbours Kerry. They play football from January to December, from underage to primary school to secondary school to 3rd Level to adult.

It’s not rocket science. And why is that the case? Because they love playing the game. It’s coached the right way. And the program of games supports that desire to play.

The report on its own is still only words on a page. Without regular monitoring it’s akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It can’t be business as usual.

That’s not to say that there aren’t pieces of the puzzle already in place, but there needs to be a complete change of approach in certain areas.

And those charged with the implementation of this, in particular the newly established Limerick Football Development Committee, of which I am part of, need to be challenged and held accountable.

Allianz Football League Division 4 10/3/2013 Limerick Pa Ranahan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

As with the advice given to me leaving the dentist, it’s all very fresh in the mind in the immediate aftermath.

Promises and plans made. But what’s measured is done. And come next year’s check-up there will be no place to hide if we haven’t followed through on those recommendations.

Gaelic Football was falling into the doldrums a bit as a game to play or spectacle to watch for a couple of years, but recent matches have showcased a positivity and renaissance taking place in the sport.

It would be great if Limerick was a significant player in that again.

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