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Former Dubs boss Gilroy: GAA can learn from rugby in reducing figures for teen drop-outs

Pat Gilroy

PAT Gilroy has suggested that the GAA take its lead from rugby in attempting to reduce the drop-out rate amongst players in their late teens.

Writing in the 'Philip Lee Sport Report', a document on the Irish public's sporting attitudes and habits published yesterday, Gilroy contends that extreme focus on competition at underage levels in gaelic games may be a mitigating factor in the comparatively large numbers of participants who abandon football or hurling in that age bracket.

"In the case of Dublin GAA, we've been good at getting young children engaged in the sport, but when they reach, say 16-17, many drop out - possibly turned off by the competitiveness at that level, or too much competition when younger and maybe it isn't fun anymore," the former Dublin manager writes.

"I think that we need to get younger children interested in sport for life, not just for competing, to arrest some of these trends.

"We can learn from rugby in that regard - who it seems have been better at reducing dropout rates - and we now don't have any real competition in GAA up to the age of 12 in order to get kids into the sporting habit, which I think is really good."


Gilroy also warns: "it seems to me that professionalism has made sport worse in many cases," insisting Irish rugby's arrival to the pay for play era has had "mixed" effects and predicting that the GAA would encounter the same critical choice "in the next fifty years."

"Sports aren't meant to be just elitist, only for the best," he outlines.

"I think the experience of rugby in Ireland has been mixed - in some regards it may have professionalised too quickly, creating problems 'down the ranks' at club level.

"Nevertheless, I expect the GAA will face the same challenge in the next fifty years, especially if the sport takes off in the UK and United States, driven by TV broadcasting (and initiatives such as GAA GO).

"There isn't just one path to professionalism, of course, and we can learn from the different approach other have taken, including the US.

"I really believe that sport should be for all, sometimes those of us involved in competitive sport may not include others and that should change."

Gilroy also predicted: "we'll see Ireland hosting more international events in the future as the quality of our stadia improves," adding: "However, we shouldn't overlook other bottlenecks when it comes to hosting such events.

"For example, do we have the transport infrastructure to accommodate the mass movement of huge numbers of fans - or the hotels for that matter?

"Whether at a grass roots level or an international level, we need to be better at co-ordinating and planning our activities around sport if we are going to reap the full benefit in the future.

"I think we can improve the co-ordination between sports councils, business and government bodies to achieve that end."