BY KIERAN McCARTHY
A FORMER Cork football captain has urged GAA clubs to make the most of the ‘massive opportunity’ that has been presented to them by Cork GAA Coaching Officer Kevin O’Donovan.
An All-Ireland winner in 2010, Derek Kavanagh feels that the 16-page Cork GAA hurling and football draft discussion document, put forward by O’Donovan at last week’s county board meeting, needs the support of clubs, and the county board, if it’s to help instigate change.
The Nemo Rangers man praised O’Donovan for taking it upon himself to start a debate that he feels is necessary to stop the decline of Cork GAA.
‘It was a brave move he made because he has put himself out in the open,’ Kavanagh said.
‘He is isolated if clubs and the county don’t row in behind him, get in touch with him, put their names to a couple of motions, lobby other clubs and start making a change. That’s the only way you can bring about change, if these ideas turn into motions and if these motions are lobbied for support and they then get passed.
‘People need to get behind him now because he has brought great energy to the debate. He has been involved at the ground level here in Cork for the last three, four, five years; he knows what’s going on, he has his finger on the pulse in terms of underage development, the politics, how to get things done and he understands how difficult it is to get change.
‘The plans he has put forward have substance behind them, they are not throwaway, wishful plans. He is backing them up with ways how to achieve what he has suggested; that’s what’s most impressive to me.
‘Kevin has taken the most important step in almost educating the rest of the county as to how bad things are, Everyone means well but it’s just a difficult environment to bring about change – that’s what Kevin understands best, how difficult the next step is.
‘The sentiment is there, both from the county board and the 12-year-old who wants to be the best, and Kevin is the perfect guy in the middle to inspire the 12-year-old and to inspire the guy in the county board who has been there for 30 or 40 years.
‘He is offering the fresh pair of eyes and the fresh energy that is needed. If the whole of Cork doesn’t get behind this, it’s a massive opportunity lost.’
Kavanagh added: ‘It’s a draft document, but it’s a well-educated draft that has years of thought put into it. It’s going to get tweaked and amended, but that’s what Kevin intended, for it to get genuine democratic debate. It’s an ideal template to start with and to bring about change, and it’s over to genuine GAA people to take this on.’
A particular bugbear of Kavanagh is the club structure in the county, and this is an issue that is addressed in O’Donovan’s proposals; in fact, it’s the very first proposal where the Cork GAA Coaching Officer calls for ‘regular, meaningful games for all our club players’.
‘There’s a lot of good ideas but the biggest one, I think, is the attempt to change the club structure and get it sorted,’ Kavanagh said.
‘I raised a motion back in 2012 to bring about change in the club structure.
‘It was two years after I retired, two years I spent helping out the seniors in Nemo and I saw that there was a massive waste there – what I mean is that there were hundreds of training sessions wasted, especially in the early part of the year.
‘I did a study in 2012 and Bishopstown were waiting 19 weeks between their championship first round and next round games.
‘The average wait for teams back then was 15 weeks before the first round and their next round – and that’s a massive waste.
‘All of that is affecting clubs and is affecting the quality of the county championships. Change to that will help the club players. No action is being done to reverse the damage to the club scene. That’s the proposal I feel most passionately about.’