Reaffirming the faith'
Offaly insist hiring 'mentor' doesn't change their status among hurling's hierarchy
OFFALY have defended the appointment of Dermot Healy as their assigned 'mentor' under the newly-published National Hurling Development Plan, despite being one of only four Liam MacCarthy Cup counties to take on such a position.
Healy, who managed the Faithful County to All-Ireland success in 1981 and 1985, is one of 23 mentors chosen by the counties to "provide coaching support expertise to counties seeking assistance."
Of the Tier 1 hurling sides who compete in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, only Offaly, Antrim, Westmeath and Laois have taken on the mentor role and the Faithful are the only county with an All-Ireland or All-Ireland final appearance within the last 15 years to avail of the service.
However, Offaly chairman Pat Teehan insisted the branding of the position was "a case of semantics" and the acceptance of Healy did not mean that Offaly now considered themselves one of the newly-branded 'developing hurling counties'.
"It just depends on what your definition of 'developing' is," Teehan told the Herald.
"Dermot Healy has a long association with Offaly hurling. It's something that is going to evolve. There is nothing inflicted on anyone. It was brought up, it was proposed and we took a vote on it.
"Anything that can improve hurling in any county is welcome.
"Dermot Healy knows Offaly hurling inside out. So if he can come in and look at things and point us in the right direction, we're open to it."
Committee chairman and GAA president-elect Liam O'Neill praised Offaly for buying into the mentor scheme, noting how they had been left out of the 'Gang of Eight' elite hurling counties who lobbied to redraw the Allianz Hurling into an eight-team division. "Look how Offaly have reacted to it and they're saying we want to buy in to hurling development because they're looking at it on a different level, a different plane," O'Neill insisted.
"It's more about the underage system in Offaly -- it's not because Offaly are weak but because they recognise that they want to get back up to where they were."
Three former Dublin hurling managers, Tommy Naughton, Michael O'Grady and Humphrey Kelleher, will lend a hand to Louth, Derry and Armagh respectively while arguably the biggest coup was by Ulster minnows Tyrone and Donegal, who have attracted Tipperary's All-Ireland management duo, Liam Sheedy and Eamon O'Shea, on board.
However, O'Grady has warned that the overall plan - which he described as "an excellent work" -- will face the inevitable problems of county board apathy.
"Sometimes they see themselves as so weak that they feel as though the money is not there and the interest is not there," he predicted. "If it's a predominantly football county, it's very hard to promote a second game because they would see it as a threat.
"It's hard to imagine now but it was the same with Dublin not so long ago. When Dublin started to make moves in hurling, people were saying 'this is not good for Dublin football'.
"Now, you have a situation where both sides (codes) can be quite successful without harming one another. The only potential conflict is in cases where you have dual players."
The mentor role is just one aspect of the plan which is designed to increase the numbers playing hurling in traditionally weaker counties, improve the level of coaching and provide a programme of matches for all ages and grades.
A National Hurling and Camogie Development Centre will also be established at Waterford Institute of Technology, responsible for "consolidating and promoting research and development across hurling-related areas -- sports science, coach and referee education and player development.