THE GAA hopes that the development of a new Geographic Information System (GIS) will prove to be a vital weapon in dealing with the challenge faced by clubs in areas of rural population decline.
Amalgamations of underage clubs have become more common in West Cork, and while there has not been one at adult level yet, the trends would indicate that the possibility is growing. It’s a situation reflected all over the country and the GAA’s community development, urban and rural committee, led by Colm Cummins, sought to establish clarity of the matter.
Having been piloted in Kerry, Roscommon, Westmeath and Tyrone, the system – which compiled all demographic data relevant to GAA clubs – will now be rolled out across the rest of the country, under the guidance of the association’s education officer, Peter Horgan.
Cummins is pleased that this initiative, developed in conjunction with Future Analytics, can provide clubs with all of the necessary information to help with future direction.
‘We would be very strong on the view that too many decisions were made in the absence of good, solid information and that’s why we pushed this GIS tool,’ he says.
‘The GAA have secured funding from the Sport Ireland Dormant Accounts Fund to bring in a full-time resource to drive on the roll-out across the rest of the country. You’d hope that everyone will have full access to it in the next year.
‘The key here was to give people the information so that these decisions could be made based on evidence rather than based on emotion.’
Emotion will always be strong where GAA clubs are concerned, of course, and the desire to serve one’s club is a strong pull.
There are times when doing so can become almost impossible from a logistical point of view, but, with backed up by the GIS data, there is a possibility that transfer rules could change.
‘Something we’ll be putting in our final report is the question of whether we can put it in our rules to introduce some flexibility,’ Cummins says.
‘A lad could be working and living in an urban area and he might be able to play with that club in the league or championship and then get a sanction to go back and play with his home club at a much lower level for their championship.
‘The way things are changing, you might just need to keep the club afloat for five or six years while they’re under pressure and then the numbers might show that they’d have the younger players coming through and could sustain themselves again and you could remove that flexibility again.
‘You’d have to make sure you didn’t dilute things too much and lead to a free-for-all but it works quite well in terms of weekend sanctions to play in Boston or New York or wherever.’