Paudie Palmer on how to revive Gaelic football on the northside

Last season saw a series of poor results in the county championships from St Nick's, Na Piarsaigh, St Vincent's and Mayfield: Where has it all gone wrong?
Paudie Palmer on how to revive Gaelic football on the northside

St Nick's have struggled in recent seasons since a great senior win over Kiskeam in 2018. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

THE inspiration for this week’s column in part comes from a Kerryman, All-Ireland winning player and manager Eamon Fitzmaurice, though I have covered this topic before.

Back in late March, the Kerry County Board requested Fitzmaurice head up a special committee tasked with undertaking a root and branch review of football in North Kerry.

The official line was the board was concerned with the failure of players from the area to progress on to the county senior team and also that the two divisional teams, Feale Rangers and Shannon Rangers, were not featuring at the business end of the County Football Championship.

However, I would venture that the declining playing population may also be a major concern.

The 'yerra' boys paying attention to strategic planning... it triggered a nerve of sorts! Is there any northern outpost of this county that could do with a similar review?

What about the northside of Cork city? Oh, football is played there but where does its status stand?

In West Cork, there is a perception that the oval ball has taken hold like ragwort. Some of this is down to a pushed narrative and some of it is founded on reality. Since Darren Sweetnam swapped the Cork jersey for Munster, there have been a number of rugby players breaking through from the region.

Well if a selection of media outlets are exercised with the rugger revolution in the West, surely this column won’t be brought before the sporting judiciary if I attempt to begin a discussion on the future of Gaelic football on the northside of the city.

Ok, let us have a look at a few statistics.

Castletownbere's Andrew O'Sullivan beats Na Piarsaigh goalkeeper Alan O'Sullivan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Castletownbere's Andrew O'Sullivan beats Na Piarsaigh goalkeeper Alan O'Sullivan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In last year’s county championship where each team was guaranteed three games, the northside of the Lee was represented by four clubs. 

St Nicks (Senior A) lost all three and were relegated.

Na Piarsaigh (PIFC) lost all three as well but they did defeat Gabriel Rangers, thus avoiding the drop.

St Vincent’s (PIFC) lost two games and recorded one victory.

Mayfield (IFC) lost all three matches and were relegated.

So in the 12 regulation championship games, the four clubs lost 11 and the one round-robin victory recorded was by a single point.

Even though it may be considered a snapshot in time, 2020 didn't present a healthy state of football in this large urban area.

There are also a number of junior teams operating in the area and their recent performances haven’t exactly set the world alight either.

In the 2020 city junior football championship a competition that doesn’t yield rich dividends on the county stage, Delanys did get to the junior final before losing to Passage.

 Ryan Carroll, Passage, battles John Hosford, Delanys. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Ryan Carroll, Passage, battles John Hosford, Delanys. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Brian Dillon’s lost their first round clash with Douglas' second team while Rathpeacon went down to a St Michael’s third side.

White’s Cross lost to Passage in the quarter-final and finally Whitechurch from what I can ascertain, operate in the Junior B championship.

You have to agree, that all the above do not make for pleasant reading if you are a big ball fan, even if you are not a northside resident.

At this stage, the point should be made that in the past St Nicks, Na Piarsaigh and St Vincent’s were operating successfully as serious football clubs. Mayfield have also had some success and even Delanys competed against Castlehaven when the latter was at the beginning their Everest journey.

A question and we could borrow from Donald Trump here, can northside football be great again?

Is it possible that Cork GAA and indeed the clubs themselves are happy to have hurling as the staple diet and view Gaelic football as its secondary sport?

Now a wee confession, I am not totally au fait with the situation that pertains to the underage activity in this region, but I am not convinced that it’s in rude health.

I honestly think if the boys over the ditch view it as worth their while to right whatever is wrong in North Kerry, then at least let’s talk about what should be done in the northside of the nation’s second city.

In the short term, the bar has been set unbelievably low for the clubs to do better than last season. They say the first step to a solution is realising that there is a problem.

This realisation must be shared by the clubs, Rebel Óg, coaching structures within the county, the executive of the Cork County Board as well the County’s director of football.

The solution, if that is the shared objective will involve both financial and personal investment.

This I do know, every effort will be made to solve the perceived crises in North Kerry.

Honestly, I remain to be convinced that interest levels in Rebel land are at the required standard to make similar progress on the vast area north of the Lee.

Let us hope that I am wrong.

Contact: paudie.palmer@hotmail.com Twitter: @paudiep

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