Morgan is right... Rebels must now focus on a centre of excellence

Morgan is right... Rebels must now focus on a centre of excellence
Nemo Rangers legend Billy Morgan at the launch of the inaugural AIB GAA Club Player Awards. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

WHEN Billy Morgan speaks, he will always have an audience. And his status ensures that the audience will usually be all ears to whatever Morgan has to say.

He has never been shy about putting the boot into the county board and, when Morgan had the opportunity last week at a media event, he let fly. In his view, some of the €80m spent on the rebuilding of Páirc Uí Chaoimh should have been used to develop a training centre for county teams.

“Cork still have no place to train,” said Morgan.

“You look at most counties now and they have centres of excellence. I thought Cork would have developed some place with a few pitches. In my time, we were going cap in hand to clubs and looking for some place to train and it’s the same at the moment, which is crazy.

“My own feeling on it was maybe not spend as much money on the stadium and develop some place with four or five pitches for your inter-county teams. We don’t have that. I think it’s very disappointing. You have to have a home and all the other counties (have theirs).”

Morgan is right. Cork would benefit from having a centre of excellence similar to the one recently developed by Kerry at Currans. It surely hurts Morgan even more considering what Kerry have built in their €7m new home: Six pitches, eight dressing rooms, two physio rooms, a massive gym with a 30m testing track, a 50-seater auditorium, video room, and eating facilities.

The Kerry Centre of Excellence in Currans. Picture: Domnick Walsh
The Kerry Centre of Excellence in Currans. Picture: Domnick Walsh

A significant part of the money raised came from fundraising initiatives in the US, which generated over €1m. Dublin have the most fundraising and branding potential to bankroll their teams but others are trying to keep some pace. In Tyrone, “Club Tyrone” has raised over £4m for the county footballers through a variety of schemes involving supporters in the county and beyond.

Cork have finally come to the party in a more serious manner. The company, CSF Funding Co Ltd, was established in 2016 to provide the Cork senior footballers with an additional finance stream to that provided by the county Board.

In recent weeks, the company was restructured and is set to be renamed Cairde Chorcaí, which will now also help fund the county hurlers as well as becoming involved in other, longer-term projects.

CSF received significant backing from the business community in Ireland and in the United States, with fundraising trips to Chicago and San Francisco undertaken in the last two years.

The new organisation’s range of objectives will be outlined in greater detail at an upcoming formal launch. A centre of excellence may be one of those but, in the short term, Cork have plenty of other more pressing needs.

One strong traditional city club don’t have an U16 team this year. That may just be an isolated example but what good is a centre of excellence to those young players at the moment? Is focussing on overall underage coaching, especially in the city, not more of an overall priority?

When Kevin O’Donovan drew up his blueprint for Cork GAA two years ago, it carried 25 proposals. Proposal 4 was for “County and Regional Centres of Excellence”.

“A vibrant multifunctional central hub, with regional outposts for the promotion of games at all level,” wrote O’Donovan. “While the completion of the reconstruction of Páirc Uí Chaoimh will meet some requirements, the establishment of long-term licence agreements with both CIT and UCC is essential.

“In addition, licence agreements with potential regional bases in clubs such as Clonakilty or Mallow are also necessary. The provision of 4G all-weather pitches and multifunctional indoor spaces would be an important element of such agreements to shift potential developmental programmes to the winter month.”

Action between Ballincollig and Fr O'Neill's at a Rebel Óg blitz on the astro-turf in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Pic: Gavin Browne
Action between Ballincollig and Fr O'Neill's at a Rebel Óg blitz on the astro-turf in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Pic: Gavin Browne

The provision of those centres of excellence play an important role in O’Donovan’s vision but that vision cannot be realised without more important foundation blocks being set in place first, a number of which were proposals in O’Donovan’s blueprint; review and support Sciath na Scoil programmes; review and support post primary games programme; the Jack Lynch programme — a Regeneration Hurling model for Cork City; develop and extend coach education programmes; provide additional coaching staff around the county.

With Cairde Chorcaí set to begin providing a solid revenue stream to fund and support county teams, any additional revenue, in the short term, should be ploughed into those types of projects and programmes.

The building of a centre of excellence should happen in time — especially if the Cork fundraising machine ramps into full gear. The 4G pitch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh has served a very useful purpose for all teams and groups since it opened but more of those facilities need to be built.

Moves are already afoot to begin that process. The Carbery GAA Board is currently exploring the option of building a 4G pitch in West Cork, with the board having set up a sub-committee to look into its feasibility.

Carbery vice-chairman Tom Lyons said last week that the pitch would be under the control of the Carbery board but would be available to the county board, Rebel Óg, other divisional boards, along with clubs and schools. “In fact,” said Lyons “more than one such pitch is badly needed in each division.”

It is, which would tie in with O’Donovan’s proposal for “potential regional bases” with “4G all-weather pitches”. More importantly, those bases would be even more effective with the coaching structures and programmes (which are detailed in O’Donovan’s proposals) being carried out in them.

In an ideal world, Morgan is right; Cork should have a centre of excellence. State-of-the-art facilities, or having a home as Morgan rightly puts it, is important for the future of Cork GAA. But there are other more pressing needs at the moment. Because coaching and kids are the real foundation blocks of any future.

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