ULSTER Camogie’s participation and growth co-ordinator Ryan Gaffney has said that he is exploring the possibility of cross-county and cross-provincial club leagues in order to boost the sport in the province’s weaker counties.
While 2020 was a reminder of the strength of camogie in Ulster as Down, Antrim, Armagh and Cavan made up the finalists in the All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior Championships, participation is low or basically non-existent in counties like Fermanagh, Donegal and Monaghan.
“The biggest challenge to our sport is growing the numbers within the weaker counties,” said the Middletown man.
“In order to tackle this, I would like to work towards setting up cross-county or even cross-provincial leagues. This would work similar to the Tain Óg leagues that myself, Martin Fogarty, Aidan Morgan and Pauric Dowdall implemented in 2018 for hurling clubs within weaker counties.
“We were tasked with growing the profile of hurling within our regions and when we removed the county and provincial boundaries it became a lot easier.”
The former Armagh player expanded on the benefits this strategy had for hurling in Ulster.
“Before I left my post with Ulster GAA in February 2020, we had 74 clubs and 108 teams registered across both age groups with a total of 354 extra games to be played but, unfortunately, Covid put the programme on hold.
“Seeing the success of this programme in 2018 and 2019, Croke Park decided to introduce a new senior competition called the Cuchulainn League in 2020 for clubs within the weaker counties and we had 44 teams registered but, again, Covid put this on hold.”
The current pandemic has also hampered Gaffney’s early ambitions in the role, but he said that it has been an eye-opening first year in the position regardless.
“I started my role with Ulster Camogie last March and then a few weeks later we all went into lockdown so like everyone it took a bit of time to adapt to the new way of working.
“But in a way it has opened our eyes a bit and has no doubt shaped the way we will be providing upskilling in the future.”