The GAA and the challenge of rural depopulation – Mayo News football podcast 2021 E44

Over the last number of weeks on the Mayo News football podcast, we’ve kept our focus firmly on the here and now, following the Senior, Intermediate and Junior football Championships as they’ve played out round by round. With the spoils now settled at county level for the year, however, we have time to widen the lens out and consider longer-term trends that impact on how GAA clubs within the county are faring.  

Clubs prosper and struggle over time for a variety of different reasons but one of the main factors that has come to the fore this year is the challenge presented by rural depopulation. In this episode of the podcast, we examine this issue in detail. Joining host Rob Murphy and Edwin McGreal of the Mayo News on the show are Kiltane GAA club member Ciaran O’Hara and Professor John Bradley, economist and former research professor at the ESRI who has written extensively on this topic. 

The discussion focuses on the challenges facing rural GAA clubs across the county, which were highlighted by the particular issues faced this season, notably by the Lacken GAA club. Various aspects to the problem are considered, including the impact on a north/south basis and the issues posed by town and country divisions right across the county.

This episode of the Mayo News football podcast is now online and is available to listen to on iTunes, SoundCloud, Podomatic and Spotify. You can also listen to it directly on the Mayo News website as well as here on the blog using the SoundCloud player below or the one on the panel on the right.

The Mayo News football podcast has its own Twitter presence, @MayoPodcast, so if you’re a Twitter user you should follow us there to make sure you get the latest podcast-related updates, including new episodes. 

The Mayo News football podcast is produced and edited by Ger Duffy Media and is proudly sponsored by Crean Ceramic City. 

78 thoughts on “The GAA and the challenge of rural depopulation – Mayo News football podcast 2021 E44

  1. Foolish words from Dermot Butler quoted today, calling Dublin arrogant in this year’s semi final against us. I don’t know why he’d say that given Tyrone beat us well in the final. It’s Butler who’s coming across as arrogant with remarks like this. Is it any wonder we’re ridiculed nationally? 70 years and counting. No wonder Dublin were arrogant against us.

    It would be a different thing altogether if we won the bloody thing. I’m certain those words will be fodder for the Dubs in the near future.

  2. One of the more farcical GAA trends growing in recent years is for the county secretary to hand down their report in the silly season. It’s generally a ridiculously biased view of the world, and I’m not sure if it’s purpose is to rally the local troops or fanbase or what, but it really does nothing for me anyway as a Mayo GAA fan.
    They are all becoming more and more like father Ted giving his golden cleric speech.
    I’ll give Dermot Butler a heads up – no one in Mayo gives a shit what you think about the dubs or any other team in Ireland for that matter. So stop providing extra incentive for them to beat us next time we play them in the championship. It’s bad enough to have John Costello at that kind of nonsense in Dublin the last few years – at least they have some AI medals to show for it.

  3. on a separate topic:
    Season Ticket renewals: Club + is now 250 Euros. As I buy 2 for my household this is now 500 euros (100 Euro increase). A lot of money…

    Outside admission to League games, first game of Championship and guaranteed access to an AIF ticket (if mayo get there), is there anything else.

    What does the Adult ticket (150 Euros) cover?? Is the only difference an AIF ticket?

    Many thanks for help in advance.

  4. @larryduff – Is it not the job of the chairman to control the secretary from these type of outbursts and should he not have vetted the report before it was published? This is not the first time this has happened and it puts the spotlight on Mayo GAA once again in December and will only motivate the Dubs more not that they need it.

    On a different note, do we know when the senior team begin training for 2022 and most importantly has anyone any information on where Cillian is with his injury? CIllian will need a good run of games in the league so he will be firing on all cyclinderS come the Galway game. Is it true that this will be played Easter Sunday?

  5. @tonyk i dont have a season ticket because for obvious reasons i cant fly back every weekend for games.
    i see the season tickets as very good value for people who can attend all games.
    given the mess with tickets at this years final, there has to be some premium to be assured a ticket if Mayo get to the final and for lots of people that reassurance removes a lot of pressures.
    The fact the county board were able to sell 35 10 ticket packages for 5000 EUROS (175k clear profit) shows there is demand. one thing for certain is we will almost certainly play 2-3 finals next 6-8 years. It would be nice to win one!

  6. Mike Finnerty said our game vs Galway will be in “early” May. Connacht final is down for the 29th May.

  7. Has anyone listened to the podcast this post is about? Every single one of us that cares about our county and our towns, villages and parishes in Mayo should be listening to it, and it should be lighting a fire under all of us.

    Let’s put aside the talk of season tickets and fixtures on this thread and actually engage with this topic, because (without getting political) part of the reason we are where we are in Mayo is because of current economic and spatial development strategies that are not delivering for the West of Ireland, for Mayo, and, as those of us living here can testify, for communities in North Mayo. It’s time to mobilise (why is this so challenging when so many of us are saying the same thing?) and this podcast will surely provide some food for thought on that topic.

  8. The podcast of this thread is the most important and striking in the history of the blog.
    I really recommend you all listen.
    Perspective changing.
    Well done on forming such a well researched and qualified podcast panel.

  9. The only answer to rural depopulation is to provide jobs in these areas. However the only significant job creation is in the greater Dublin area..with some tech, pharma and medical devices jobs in Cork, Galway,Limerick and Waterford.

    It’s that simple unfortunately.

    Doesn’t help when the cabinet has little or no representation from west/Northwest

  10. One of the biggest problems, for me is undue influence ‘Lobbiests’ have in Dail Eireann have, on any greater vision for Ireland.. Sectional interests, like for example Vulture Funds, the Insurance industry, Banking.. How many politicians leave Dail Eireann and go and work for one of those instructions and then we wonder why the policies persued by those politicans when in power were such.. It isn’t just a North Mayo problem.

  11. Mayo Fan in Chicago – you might enlighten me: have you got the gift of bi-location or is it just one of life’s coincidences than what you posted about ticket packages appeared word for word in a comment posted by someone using a ‘Mayo Man in London’ handle on another forum?

  12. No idea what you are on about WJ and i am not sure i have broken any rules with my recent posts? i am happy to send you a picture from the loop which is full of homeless people while 1/3 of coffee shops/lunch spots are boarded up

  13. The recent podcast was quite possibly, and the bar for this is very high, the best I’ve ever heard from the Mayo News Podcast crew. Frightening though and unless you are from one of the bigger towns then Lackens fate could just as easily be any clubs fate.
    Depopulation figures laid it all on the table for everyone to see. The figures don’t lie and unless something is done at a national policy level then we will lose many more clubs. Actually, never mind the football side of it, from a pure economic and living choice many parts of Mayo will be left behind to die alone.

  14. Credit to the gents putting this podcast together. Sad state of affairs with the facts on declining school enrolements. Alot is to do with poor planning during 90s/00s boom. Disgraceful all the holiday homes built in these rural areas especially Achill Island using up sites.
    Poor planning Ireland is an island, cant build more land.

    The idea of improving rail connections to Galway and making Galway the capital of the west is an interesting one. Pros and cons. Maybe our county towns would suffer. But better than going to Dublin.

    Jobs is answers for these rural communities, tax breaks or more incentives to stay in the west. D4 goverments caused this. Ill never forget a certain PD politician justifying closing rural post offices 20 years ago. Commented theres no where in Ireland thats no more than a 20 miniute drive to an urban center .That mentality he obviously never been to Mayo or cared.
    Plenty of mayo people around the world who would love to return if opportunity was there. Myself included.

  15. @Reekclimber96, agree with you very worthwhile Podcast.. I was intrigued that the Dutch Police were monitoring the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage, as recounted by Professor John Bradley, I don’t know what they could possibly learn there that would be useful to them in the Netherlands.. You wouldn’t find a Hill the size of a pimple in the Netherlands.. I would also respectfully disagree with Professor John Bradley on his assertion that changing the Constitution “hasn’t worked anywhere” .. Very broad statement.. The Irish Constitution of 1937, passed by the vote of only 38% of the electorate entitled to vote in 1937 by a 56% to 44% mandate way back then.. The problem with the 1937 Constitution is that it has become the prisoner of powerful vested interests, in fact it started that way, with that way and remains that way.. The only people in Ireland who could possibly have voted for the Constitution would now be over 105/106 year’s old.. There is no way in the world those people back then could possibly have imagined the way the world would change just in the next few years with the upcoming World War 2 changing the world so much for ever, never mind plan for 21st year of the 21st Century. .. The way the world is in my opinion, any Constitution would be doing very well, if it stayed relevant for 20 year’s.. I believe there is a desperate need for a complete rewrite, with much less input from the powerful vested interests of 1937, or the Lobby group’s that seek to influence those in Dail Eireann today.

  16. Yes, Mayo 36, I got a ticket this time yesterday on the universe ticket platform. I may send a link if that’s OK WJ? I was put in the naughty step the last time I done some copy and paste!!! (which was fair enough at the time)

  17. Sure didn’t we have a Mayo Taoiseach for a few years, did this not help Mayo in any way ?

    Rural decline has been in existence since the 1950’s, nothing new.

    It’s not simply a case of depopulation, more of migration
    as people are moving into the towns in their own Counties.

    The Planning Laws has contributed to this as its very difficult for people to build a house anywhere in a Rural area.

    The majority of Rural raised children eventually move away to College in the main Cities and get work there, sure they are right, no fun at home.

    Many Rural clubs will be forced to close up, the County Boards are partially to blame, inflicting huge fees on those clubs for the Loans to be paid back for new stand and pitch upgrades.

  18. Podcast excellent. Well done to all evolved. Living on the east coast here. Involved in a small rural club. Some similar things happening here. Politicians only interested in reelection not long term strategy that will pay off long term . Much like any successful club a senior county title is won from u8s onwards not just pulling 20 25 adult’s together to make up a team.

  19. Is this topic an excuse for Mayo not winning All Irelands ?
    People from North Mayo, Bellmullet and Achill seem to mainly work in construction, it’s in the blood, they go to Dublin and London to get good money. The bad land has alot to do with this.
    Claremorris may have strong underage teams but poor at Senior level.
    Ballinrobe and Claremorris have grown as people cannot afford to buy in Galway.

    The club imbalance is not just confined to Mayo, here in Dublin some of the more affluent clubs have an A, B, C and D teams at underage level, I know a club that had 90 boys at under 13 level, but a very close by club has only 25 players. Soccer is a major cause also.

    Maybe it’s time to move back to the West to avail of the Reps / Headage payment ( if land comes with the deal ) free from traffic jams, free from soaring living costs, free from School fees, high parking costs etc.

    We could bring our Dublin club Coaching knowledge/skills with us.

  20. Could the County board step in and encourage urban areas like Castlebar, Ballina and Westport to form new Gaa clubs like Killarney and Tralee in Kerry, these are large towns who have 4 and 3 clubs each.To many young players walking away from football early in the town teams in Mayo cause there not getting first team football. Our could the areas of these Urban gaa clubs be made smaller than they currently are, maybe cutting them off the edge of the towns and letting the rest of the players play for the surrounding smaller rural clubs outside of these towns.Looking at Westport on the club gaa map it has a huge area for a well populated town,the area could definitely be reduced. Castlebar should definitely be divided and have 2 Clubs with the numbers Ed said they have in there schools. Could Parke, Islandeady and Breaffy areas go right into the edge of the town of Castlebar to reduce numbers going to Mitchels.

  21. The young people from my Clubs community prefer to live in Dublin or Galway or travel abroad.
    The reason being that there is no Social Life for them in the area. We live 6 miles outside Castlebar. There is no Night Club in Castlebar for years and to socialize they have to travel by bus from Castlebar to Westport and get a Taxi home from Castlebar on their return journey. (Waiting time for a Bus and then a Taxi and travelling Time up to 3 hours). I was born in the 60’s and in the 80’s there were several night clubs in Castlebar, Westport, Louisburgh, Claremorris, Brize (Beaten Path) Knock, Kiltimagh, Ballina, Crossmolina, Ballyhaunis, and we visited them all. PS. You could Drink and Drive in them days.

  22. @willie Joe,
    You weren’t to only one to spot that on the other forum,I i spotted it myself (I’m a regularly contributor over there) and another poster from there DMed me too.
    I’ve mentioned on the other forum that I think there’s a concerted and somewhat organised campaign to run down Horan and County board (as there was recently on twitter) With the genuine anger,frustration and disappointment still ingering its easy to see how this is the perfect storm.
    Without the risk of repeating myself,several accounts who weren’t on here before the final have now elevated themselves to most prolific posters and are behind this on this blog and others,it ain’t exactly subtle.The moderator can only do so much.would it be possible to add something to the rule book to help with this issue without stifling healthy debate? The constant, agenda driven, same points made in lengthy diatribes by the same 3 or 4 posters is already ruining the site.I think the real kicker for me is these same points popping up in everything from Oisin, going to Oz,to Boyler retiring,club to hurling thread,ladies threads as well as any and all senior men’s stuff..Some of the top knowledgeable posters have left,other friends of mine who were regular readers but didn’t post,don’t log on at all now.
    I have no problem with people disagreeing with me on here or anywhere else,that’s not what’s happening here.
    I don’t know what the answer is @willieJoe,I’m reluctant to give it oxygen but it needs to be dealt with on some level before the comments sections becomes just a no go.

  23. F W well said.
    Anyone that knows Horan and C Mac will know they are two gentlemen who take their jobs very seriously.
    James doesn’t suffer fool’s easily and goes about his job like a true professional.
    I know for a fact Mayo Gaa is in a good place when he is around.
    I expect to see this team come out pure bullish and hit new heights for 2022.
    The real truth is a lot of this team have only been a round a year and have had a very disruptive year at that.
    I’m sure lessons will be learned and they will take it to a new level next year.

  24. Thanks, FW and All41n14all. There is, of course, a concerted, well-directed campaign of division and abuse going on over multiple platforms and it’s fairly clear what the toxic source of it is too. I’ve battled hard to minimise its impact here but it’s a hard battle, day after day and week after week. I appreciate that the impact it has here has driven some away but I’ve done what I can to strike a workable balance between letting a debate flow and stopping those who only want to post the same critical stuff on a drip, drip basis. I accept that’s not a balance I’ve got right at every turn but it’s an impossible task.

    In fact, I’m thinking long and hard about what the future holds for the comment facility on the blog. I’m coming round to accepting that it cannot continue over the long-term in its current form, though the timescale for and structure of what I’d like to see happen (as part of a wider change in what the blog is and how it might continue to exist in some form into the future) still isn’t fully clear in my mind.

    Thanks for the feedback, though – this place was created for genuine Mayo GAA fans, whose hearts are in the right place and who simply want Mayo to do well. I think we’ve all learned a lot over the years, too much sadly about the twisted motivations of others who have a very different outlook.

  25. Clubs need to mind every club person like a precious jewel. This does not happen in a lot of clubs. In fact quite the opposite.
    Knockmore are a model. Garrymore, Ballintubber, Charlestown, Kilmeena, Mayo Gaels.
    A clubs culture needs work when they are hoping people will be involved.
    The most important thing in a club is culture. This won’t survive a total decimation of population, but it helps survive a small population.

  26. Ive been posting intermittently here since 2009 and would be sad to see the blog comments stopping but must also say that the longevity of this forum has been quite amazing relative to most online forums of this kind.

    In terms of the podcast – it was great discussion but to be honest only scratches the surface of the issues.
    My first thoughts listening to this were – welcome to the party lads, this trend has been obvious for over 20 years now.
    I was raised between 2 national schools in remote north Mayo, one of which had 31 kids in 1997, the other with about 75.
    Now, the one with 31 kids is closed (since about 2009) and the other has 9 kids in the entire school. That’s not an exaggeration. This is a school that provided a lot of footballing names synonymous with Mayo club football including several Mayo underage players in the 1990s and 2000s. Clearly the writing is on the wall for GAA in these clubs long term.
    What wasn’t really discussed in the podcast is the role of family demographics in the modern era. When I was in national school in the 1990s, there was families with 10, 12, even one with 15 kids in their family attending school. Dozens of families had 5 or 6 kids back then. Those days are long over. My own family with 6 kids was average at that time but would be considered a major outlier in today’s world.
    Part of the decline in rural areas is because of smaller family sizes. The point here in that while the lads described claremorris having 17% more kids attending school today than in 1994, it’s likely that back in 1994, there were dozens of families with 6 or 8 kids going through the schools in claremorris. Now it’s mostly 2 or 3 siblings per family. Which indicates that the number of families sending kids to school in claremorris has probably doubled since 1994.
    At the same time, there may not be the same decline in the number of families in area like lacken and kiltane as the raw numbers may indicate but the fact that families are smaller nowadays magnifies this.
    Planning laws are another problem. I know of one family a few years back who repeatedly tried to get planning to build a house in rural Erris and after several rejections, reluctantly decided to settle in south Mayo. That’s a family of 4 or 5 lost to the local school directly because of the inability to get planning permission.
    So what’s the answer? People are not going to return to having massive families!
    Clearly jobs to keep people in the area, requiring roads and infrastructure like broadband. North Mayo needs roads like the N26, N58 & the R312 to belmullet from Castlebar (how the hell is this road not an national road instead of regional by the way?) to be prioritised for a start and properly upgraded. There’s minimal appetite or political clout available to achieve that though I fear.

  27. Larry Duff is right about smaller families these days and that isn’t going to change. The days of 3 and 4 brothers on a club team are numbered. There are plenty of young people who could move west now with remote working well established. However there’s a shortage of suitable/affordable properties to buy and planning laws make it very difficult to build new. That’s a national problem of course.

  28. FW and All41n14all have nailed it.
    There seems to be a continued and concerted effort to disrupt things not only here but within the machinations of the County board and no good can come of it in the way its being carried out. While there is no doubt that there is room for improvement, burning down the house isn’t the right place to start, and just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
    It’s not helped by there still being a sense of anger, primarily at another loss in this years all Ireland. Again, I’m not sure where this comes from – were Tyrone better than us on the day?. Yes they were.
    Could we have done things differently on the day?. I’m sure we could, but lets bear in mind that Morgan was on fire with his kick outs and that seems to be half the battle. If we had a fully fit team and Cillian available to play, the result may have been different – we’ll never know. While we certainly had a lot of hope, Tyrone had a better plan and nullified our key players most effectively. That was the difference. If people are angry because their own expectations were not met, then perhaps its time to reflect on your own expectations.
    Some posters here could certainly do with taking a step back from things going by the tone of their posts here, and in some cases, what I see from the same folks on Twitter and elsewhere. That applies to their commentary about stuff outside of footballing spheres too, as it seems these people are angry about everything yet fail to really offer any contributions or solutions. A few others could do everyone a favor and at least STFU from the constant whingeing about the same topics again and again and again. Let it go FFS. Your Mental health will thank you for it.

    As for the topic at hand – I’ve not yet had a listen to this podcast (damn you work, family, etc) but this is a subject that’s close to my heart. I hail from one of the farthest points of North Mayo and I knew from a very young age that the likelihood of me being able to stay there in my adult years was virtually zero. There were very few jobs locally and I would be neither a farmer nor a fisherman, as we had no land to speak of or a boat, but also I’d have the talent for neither, truth be told.
    Larry Duff makes a very pertinent point about family size and depopulation, I myself had the same experience of coming from what would now be considered a large family, back in the day would have been considered average size at best.
    I do think that availability of high speed Broadband will enable a lot more people to live and raise families in rural locations as greater connectivity will allow more people to work remotely. This is something that is being addressed with the National Broadband plan, and undoubtedly could and should have been done sooner, but as with everything, there will have been mitigating circumstances to that too. We can only deal with the now, and use what has happened in the past as something to learn from.
    I look forward to listening to the podcast to hear more on the topic.

  29. Morning! Really sorry WJ. I see where the confusion it. Mayoman in London is myyounger brother. Just between us he isn’t the smartest member of the family. No matter what I do or say he will copy it. I will be meeting him at Christmas when we are back home (Covid permitting) to see the aul fella. I will sort this out then.

  30. There are two elements to tackling economic decline in the west in general

    One is the the major infrastructure projects for a region, roads, rail broadband energy etc

    The North West will from 2021 be classified as an EU ‘Region in Transition’ in layman’s language a region in decline
    This should lead to increased funding for the region but I have yet to see any concrete evidence of what will be funded or any politician ask what is happening on this front?

    This ties into another EU issue, in 2011 the North West was taken off the EU Core Ten T map at the request of the Irish government, thus in effect removing the north West from enhanced EU funding for a motorway running along the west coast north of Tuam to Derry, it also has implications for funding for the Western Rail corridor and other large scale infrastructure projects. This is probably the single biggest policy error of our lifetimes as regards economic progress for the West. This can still be reversed but our politicians won’t confront the civil servants on this issue!

    The other element in my view is at a more local level, if you look at say England the desire of a significant amount of people is to live in the small towns and villages. One of the reasons is that they keep their towns and villages in better condition than we do. Mayo should be a county of beautiful towns and villages, some are but all need to be.
    A lot of the blame for this lies with public policy on dereliction, housing regulations, slow legal process etc.
    How are there any derelict properties in most parts of Mayo when people who want to live here can’t rent or buy even when money is not the issue.
    Communities need to be active in not tolerating the slow pace that local authorities and government are tackling this issue, there is currently a once in a lifetime opportunity to deal with this given the high housing demand through out Ireland.
    That’s my rant over!

  31. Is registration an option WJ? It can be got around as well obviously, but at least requires a bit more effort.
    There are valid questions re all aspects of Mayo GAA, but there’s obviously a concerted campaign on multiple sites and platforms, which are trying to drown out genuine discussion

  32. It would, Tubberman, as would real names only and also the possibility of only those registered being able to view what’s being posted.

    The main problem as I see it is some people are seeking to post unacceptable material publicly as an end in its own right, as those hate-filled Mayo GAA related troll accounts on Twitter have been doing for some time. Going down this road would mean a very different environment for the comments facility here on the blog but if it worked properly then the community element should still be preserved. As I said, I’m still thinking about all this but the ultimate direction of travel is becoming ever clearer in my mind, both for the comments and, indeed, for the future of the blog itself.

  33. Willie Joe, I just want to thank you again for the phenomenal effort and enjoyment you have given to those who follow Mayo football.
    In particular, thank you for the comments facility here. It has enriched my experience. Thanks to the regular posters who welcomed me onto the forum.
    However, I have not been commenting here for the most part since the start of October.
    I didn’t feel comfortable doing so because I detect a blanket of one particular viewpoint prevailing and I didn’t see how my comments could either add or have any oxygen to survive.
    I hope that changes as we move into a new year. I personally cannot wait for the League.
    Thanks hugely again for all you do.

  34. Don’t think remote work will have a huge effect at all tbh. Miniscule at best

    At the end of the day most late teens and 20-somethings will generally converge towards urban centres, pandemic or no pandemic.

    Very, very pertinent topic.

    Looking at Galway where I’m based there’s already a huge shift in dominance towards the “suburb” teams and those with huge population and catchment areas at underage level, only a matter of time before this fully seeps through to senior level. A Salthill or Claregalway not appearing in an underage final has been as rare as hen’s teeth for the last decade. If they slip up moycullen or Michaels are now generally the teams to take advantage. Oranmore are a coming force also. You’ll get one off outliers like Dunmore this year but that’s exactly what they are – outliers

    But even still the effects are starting to be felt at senior – moycullen and claregalway were intermediate 6 and 4 years ago , the former have now won a county title and claregalway are starting to knock on the door. Cortoon getting relegated means the only real small rural club left in senior are killannin, who are about a 20 minute commute from the city, so hardly the back of beyond. Caherlistrane perhaps, but they cover a fair enough area and are in close proximity to Tuam and not too far out from Galway at all
    The gaeltacht teams still have large enough catchment areas, however Carraroe are merely hanging on the last few years. Leitir Mor are up again but it’s hard to see them making an impact

    In the last few seasons cortoon, kilconly, killererin, caltra, cortoon, leitir mor were the clubs who dropped down to intermediate – anyone spot a correlation? That would be former all Ireland winners caltra and multiple county title winners killererin.

    Kilconly, cortoon (county finalists 08), glenamaddey, killkerin clonberne, st Brendans, menlough, Carna were all not so long ago brushing shoulders with the top senior clubs. Carna (county finalists 05) and Menlough (who beat claregalway in an intermediate final in 2013) are now down to junior; Brendans and Glan have done recent stints down there too

    In 10-15 years time I suspect there will be a lot more “Lackens” unfortunately, not only in Mayo but in the majority of counties – we’ll see much more amalgamation at adult level, which will be a knock on effect of all the amalgamation we’re seeing at underage level at present. There’s barely a standalone hurling east Galway club and north football club (that doesn’t have a town) in Galway underage that hasn’t amalgamated at some point recently.

  35. There are four categories of clubs in my view: A large town clubs; B mid sized rural/ small town clubs; C strong rural clubs; and D struggling small clubs. What’s the difference between them? Obviously numbers play a part. Over time many clubs have moved from B to C to D and back. But there is more than just ebb and flow over time in some cases at least. Amalgamations at under age are necessary to give youth a structure and games. Some rural / small town clubs amalgamate eg Carras(Garrymore/Kilmaine) and Ballaghaderreen/ Kilmovee Shamrocks.
    Maybe some underage amalgamations do not help all the partners when it comes to player development and retention.
    Whole club amalgamations are a whole other ballgame as Holly-Carra has shown and the abandoned Moygownagh-Ardagh attempt.
    The key may be to identify why a club is C over D. C clubs include several senior clubs eg Aughamore, Garrymore, Ballintubber and Mayo gaels. Why is eastern gaels now a C club? Why are some B clubs under achieving?
    I believe club planning and club officer and executive committee training can make a big difference to many clubs. Both candidates for Co board chair have referred recently to demographics, so it’ll be interesting if they have a plan to look at this important and delicate issue.

  36. Knockmore, which is regarded as a model to follow by some, is really struggling at underage. School population is in a serious decline and numbers participating at underage is declining for a whole variety of reasons. No training for most underage kids from under 19s down since September. Some age groups will have no training in all October, November, December, January and February. No wonder they are now operating poorly in D2 and D3 at underage. You couldn’t make it up. Real head in the hand stuff I’m afraid, just like our neighbours in Ballina and Crossmolina. We never learned from the demise that set in after the 1997 team. It’s heartbreaking to watch and the success of the current senior team is only masking the serious problems that exist down the line.

  37. Hi folks,

    Thanks very much for all the comments. Some brilliant commentary. We’ve got a great response to the podcast and I just want to respond to a few points because I feel it is vital we keep the debate going.

    There’s two sides to this, the football side and the wider community/socio-economic side.

    Just a few opinions of my own, firstly on the football side.

    Sam Og mentions rural clubs outside the large towns who could benefit from a more even spread … But I think the clubs you’ve named around Castlebar are all doing well in terms of population influx due to their location close to Castlebar. My own club, Breaffy, have considerable numbers and Parke, Balla and Islandeady are all growing.
    A second club in the towns is an interesting idea. I doubt the Mitchels, Westports and Ballinas of this world would be too keen (Ballina will argue there’s two clubs in the town already!) but it is food for thought. The Tourmakeady motion this weekend about the parentage rule has a lot going for it.
    JP makes very good points about some clubs being much better than others at retaining footballers … That’s a very true point in a GAA perspective but my concern would be the numbers from this generation to the next that will allow those clubs to continue to remain strong and for their communities to remain strong too.

    Moving onto the wider discussions and I could engage all night on this – indeed it would be a great discussion over a few pints but there would only be six of us at the table after tonight’s announcements!

    People talk about the choice aspect and there’s no doubt there’s plenty of people who have left rural Mayo who chose to do so … But I’m minded to recall Enda Kenny when he was Taoiseach saying that so many people chose to emigrate at a time when the majority did not. It would be great if people could have much more of a choice about staying in or leaving Mayo. If it was easier to do so, communities would grow, they would become better social hubs and more and more people would be drawn there …

    Larry Duff, correct, it is our first podcast on the matter but we’ve covered the topic for many years in The Mayo News. I recall in this piece in 2013 hearing of the huge fall in school numbers in Ballycastle and similarly in Achill. It is not a new problem but it is a problem many people have not engaged with.
    You make a good point about family sizes. It is a factor but I know from experience here in Achill that the bigger issue is that many of the children of the 70s, 80s, 90s are simply not living here now, for a variety of reasons.

    Broadband and remote working … I think both will undoubtedly help but won’t be silver bullets on their own, certainly not remote working. I think without old fashion infrastructure (better road and rail) combined with positive discrimination for job creation in rural areas and a complete change in mindset at national level in seeing places like Mayo as part of the solution and not the problem, we’re only gonna get so far.
    We Only Have One Plan mentions TEN-T and being a region in transition. These are issues we’ve covered extensively in the paper and are scandalous. Sadly Dublin doesn’t care. We’re one of the most centralised countries in the EU. That has to change.

    Local responses have to form part of the response too. We have to help ourselves first but I think the greatest responsibility for change and the greatest enabler of it is national policy.

    Planning is a big one that comes up. We need viable communities. Should we be looking to create village centres rather than scattered one-off houses? It is an emotive issue though and often comes back to supply and if you’ve a site handed down to you, it makes much more sense to build there than paying up to 100k for one. I can see very little in the way of a state plan to enable this in small villages anyway.

    Ciaran’s point about Galway clubs is telling … it is not just Mayo, it is most if not all counties along the western seaboard where the pull is to urban centres, to cities and to Dublin. Sometimes we look at comparisons like that and think ‘ah that’s just the way it is’ … but it doesn’t need to be like that. A more even spread is not just desirable but entirely necessary.

    Covering some of the ground above but in terms of solutions, I think there’s two key elements. One is national policy. What can be done to enable more people to live and work in rural Ireland? This helps rebalance the country and relieve the pressure on Dublin. The second are bottom up solutions. What can communities and individuals do to make their communities better places to live, more viable centres?

    What the reaction to this podcast has confirmed to me is that a lot of people get it and see the problems and have meaningful solutions. I think sometimes there’s no vehicle for that. But if I could ask people for suggestions … What do you think can be done within Mayo to bring about change?

    Thanks again folks!

  38. Ed
    Maybe it might be hard form Senior Adult clubs in the towns but at underage level it should be looked at, no kid likes been on the ‘B’ or a C team and there’s always late developers who might dropout early cause they thought they were only good enough for a B team.Dropout rates after Under 14 level in towns are very high.Its higher again after Minor level in towns cause there are only so many going to make the Junior B team in a town club where numbers are high and the Under 21 club grade has gone completely by the way side from the County Board played in the middle of winter no respect for lads of1 this age group.Also most lads will only stick playing Junior B in the town teams for a while.

  39. It is a really interesting debate and yes I do think we all get it. There is change happening such as local government reform LCDC’s LEO’S etc but the impact of these won’t be felt overnight. What is good for Europe is not always applicable here so we need a bespoke semi central government semi rural policy solution. Zero discharge treatment systems pilot studies underway in leitrim and supervised by ucd look promising and may solve a lot of planning issues. But the biggest debate that needs to happen is what is the vision for the county. Where do you build and where do we not build. Do you want a nuclear power station at bertra and an incinerator in kilmeena or an unspoilt vista. It’s going to be very hard to get agreement on the vision for the county and that is our greatest enemy for moving forward

  40. Castlebar has a population of around 12,000 people and one club.
    Killarney has a population of around 14,000 people and three clubs – all are senior this year. Each of these clubs also has a senior B team. That’s 6 adult teams in total.
    Each club also has teams at all ages underage.
    The town boundary is also very close to the town.

  41. Sorry you say that West is Best. Knockmore U19s won the County B. U18s beaten in NMayo A final by a point. U17s didn’t go well with a lot of injuries in what was a small squad. U16s won N.Mayo A. U15s got to Feile semi- final. 5 knockmore lads on N Mayo u14 team. U12s won a N Mayo B final. U11s won all their games. U10s runners up in 16 team N Mayo blitz. Not bad for a rural club in my opinion. 2 groups still training. 2 played till mid October including your sons. 1 till end of October. Coaches ran at least 2 teams in all ages except 17 up as you well know.

  42. No doubt about it – there needs to be more underage clubs created in Castlebar, Westport and Ballina.
    Absolute no-brainer.
    Keep the adult clubs the same if you wish but at least give more youngsters in these towns the chance to play first team underage football

  43. Castlebar Town could easily be divided at underage into 3 distinct areas and given there own separate name and identity but still operate under the Mitchels club umbrella , no more of the A and B teams,it would see more younger players from Castlebar getting exposed to first team football in higher divisions of the Bord na Og leagues and A championship football as usually the town B teams are put in the lowest division and all the sole focus is on the A team.
    Ballina Town could surely have a 3rd club for its population of 10 thousand, Stephenites have about 75% of Ballina to themselves while Ardnaree Sarsfields has the other quarter. The County Board will have to come on board and try and think of ideas of how to get more out of the Urban areas of Mayo.
    Would be very interested to hear the numbers that attend under 8s and 10s training at the start of a year from Castlebar Mitchels, Ballina Stephenites, Westport and Claremorris and then what numbers they finish with at Minor level??

  44. Not picking on anyone, but over the years policy certainly hasn’t helped the local population situation.
    As mentioned above, family members finding it impossible to get planning permission i.e no incentive, in fact a barrier to settling in the locality.
    On the other hand (and with no disrespect intended), families been coaxed out of urban Dublin to come live in the vast wilderness created by housing policy.

    Ed makes a great point (asks the question) on whether communities can be saved from within.

    As an example, I would have spent many happy weekends in Ardagh as a young lad 50 years ago. At this time it was evident that the population was nose diving. Some families were dieing out and there were no new families or houses going up at the time, in the area I’m speaking of.

    A couple of things I might point to which I feel did wonders for this area were.

    1) The school got a new principal. The new principal brought a vibrancy to the school. Parents wanted their kids at this national school now and I felt this acted as a magnet to attracting people to the area.

    2) There were a few outstanding individuals and organisers in the area.
    In the early to mid 80’s Ardagh built it’s community centre up beside the church. This came about thanks to the hard work and vision of a couple of energetic parishioners.
    Not only did they get the centre up and going, they also ensured that the centre was buzzing with different events each week.
    This was another little plus which put Ardagh on the map.

    3) Ardagh got their pitch developed and dressing rooms sorted as a base for their teams. This too was due to the vision and hard work of some of the locals.

    While it can be argued that Ardagh might not be too far from Ballina, I always felt it is a great example of an area that saved itself.

    I well remember the older generation, when I was young, lamenting the ever decreasing population living along the roads. They used to say, ” someday there will be no one living on this road “.

    Thankfully over the past few decades, the area I talk of has seen a rebirth.

    It may be that the youngsters who were enticed to the area over the past few decades and raised their children in the area, maybe the next generation of enticers need to come from these people. The area will need another reboot if the recent settlers children don’t stay in the area.

    Rural areas I feel need a magnet to attract people to the area in the first place, like in Ardaghs case, a good school and an active community centre.

    A good school and an active community centre need good people on board to become good schools and centres.

    Policy needs to change too, to encourage the local to stay instead of driving them down the road.

  45. A very interesting podcast for sure but nothing really new from an Achill perspective as rural de-population was highlighted in the 1960’s as it was clear that school pupil numbers were predicted to fall in parishes like Achill. Unfortunately this is what happened.This was highlighted in a RTE TV programmes made in the 1960s.
    I think what we need are more pharma/IT type jobs in Mayo like we have in Castlebar (Baxter) and Westport (Allergan) so that people from places like Achill and Belmullet might be able to gainful employment and commute. I realise this is probably not environmentally friendly but will such companies relocate in places like Achill?
    In order to achive this we need political will at the cabinet table which we don’t have at present. During Michael Noonan TD time as minister of finance a company called Regeneron located to Limerick thus creating something like 1000 jobs!
    I worked in this area myself for 40y and met with Mayo enterprise personnel (2014)
    in an effort to advise/encourage them in this regard. Hopefully something might happen in the future le cunadh De.
    Mhuigeo Abu!

  46. Another issue that needs addressing at government level is the overloading of college places into Dublin, UCD, Trinity, DCU, TU Grangegorman, Maynooth etc.
    Why is this, it doesn’t happen in the UK, top colleges in UK are Cambridge Oxford Bristol Durham etc.
    There should be a cap on college places in Dublin and future growth outside.

    In my own personal experience I’m convinced I’m now living in Mayo because I went to college in Galway, even though I did subsequently live in Dublin and UK.
    I was more connected to the west because I went to college here.

  47. Watching on RTE 2. Killcoo in the Ulster Club Championship.. Great to see the enthusiasm of ex Mayo Manager Mickey Moran, his team doing the business on the field, producing some wonderful, fast paced attacking football, brightening up a midwinter evening!

  48. In terms of proactive local development groups forming to lobby hard over the next few years, could COVID have provided an answer and something to realistically build on ?……..What I mean is the by now tried, tested and hugely successful remote working options for 1,000s around the country with decent broadband……..I would have thought this would pave the way over the next 5 years for massive rural reservation possibilities…..”digi hub” centres etc…….With the absolute craziness of urban accommodation prices I would hope that we will see a mass exodus to the sticks and opportunities West of the Shann9n for all, including our GAA clubs………..

  49. Mol an òige you highlight my point perfectly. You mention B competitions and North Mayo competitions. North Mayo is no longer the barometer I’m afraid. Claremorris, Westport, Castebar are the underage teams that we need to be judging ourselves against. I had mentioned that Crossmolina and Ballina were no better than ourselves bar the odd underage team. League results don’t lie I’m afraid. Only fooling ourselves I’m afraid if we think the North Mayo clubs including Knockmore are in a great place. We have some fantastic coaches of course, some of the very very best, but until there is a plan, a process, some joint up thinking, then we are only going to go in one direction I’m afraid.

  50. I have to say that was a fascinating podcast
    Never realised how lucky I was to be born and living in South Mayo until now 😀

  51. The national broadband scheme and thr recent move to allowing remote working will give a chance for younger people to live in their local communities.
    But that’s one-off on a case by case basis, and is unlikely to allow large numbers of young people to stay/return home.
    What’s needed is large scale employment in regional towns such as Castlebar, Westport and Ballina. That would allow people to live in the rural villages and commute to the towns – you’re never going to have new mass employment in every corner.
    For decades (or forever really) the west has been neglected. We can’t rely on national government to address this sadly.
    I think the best hope of addressing it is local government reform which gives regional authorities much more power. Then we’d need to have capable, enthusiastic people elected/appointed to those authorities.
    Thats another challenge but at least would give us in the west some more control over the future of our region.

  52. @The West is Best.
    Knockmore underage policy is to produce every year senior and junior team footballers. In my view it’s working.

  53. Viper – that was just an incoherent rant. This topic is worth debating here but the discussion needs to be a reasoned, constructive one. Your contribution there was neither and so I’ve no option but to delete it.

  54. @Willie Joe, you don’t agree that the West has been neglected by successive governments then ? Facts don’t lie.

    It would be hard to find a more neglected region but if people don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, let it stay the way it is, but don’t wonder what people are leaving then.

  55. Viper – where exactly did I say any such thing? I’m all for debate, which the podcast episode aimed to stimulate and which others have contributed to here. But there’s a difference between having a rational debate and just going off on one, which is what you did. I’ve no interest in indulging that kind of ‘debate’ here but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of place online where it’d fit in just fine.

  56. @Willie Joe, Well which part don’t you agree with ? Ireland is a rip off country, fact. Broadband rollout should have been done a long time ago, fact. The farmers are subsidized, fact. West has been neglected, fact. I saw absolutely nothing wrong with my post, because there wasn’t anything wrong with it.

    There is no ranting about that, but if you don’t like it, that’s fine but I’ll say again there is nothing untrue in it.

    I see no benefit in deleting factual statements but that’s fine.

  57. It’s all about tone, Viper, as your latest comment there demonstrates. It read like a rant because it was a rant. That’s the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned, I’m done debating this point with you.

  58. Viper – I asked you to leave it, now I’m telling you. I’m not discussing this issue with you any further. You don’t have to like my ruling but if you want to continue posting comments here, then you need to accept it.

  59. That’s fine Willie Joe@ but just say if we are allowed to comment on the podcast or not ? I don’t know now.

  60. Ok @Willie Joe, thanks. I do understand it’s a topic you don’t want to overload the blog with for good reason and it could understandably turn emotive because it’s impossible to talk about negative subjects in a positive tone but perhaps @Edwin McGreal could revisit this whole subject in the Mayo News or online where a more dedicated and comprehensive discussion could be had.

  61. I’m late to this one, as I’ve only caught up with he podcast in the last day or so.

    Terrific discussion from varying perspectives. John Bradley was particularly good on the centralisation of Irish policy-making. I’ve done research myself on the principle of subsidiarity, which basically promotes the idea of decision-making at the lowest possible level.

    Taking this principle of subsidiarity seriously would ensure that decisions are made a lot lower down the food chain. In Ireland that food chain stops at Merrion Street. Other European countries take this principle seriously, which ensures power is exercised at very low levels. Switzerland, the brand leader, decides a lot at village level. Germany, and Belgium are others that apply it. These are countries that are powerful economically, though Belgium has language and identity problems aplenty.

    One could go on at length, but the blog can only handle so much traffic! One final point that is worth mentioning: Lower-level decision-making can come at a price – local taxation, the litmus test of independence and revenue-raising. The reaction from the Irish public, (aided by many of the left-wing !! political parties), to the modest property tax that is place, doesn’t augur well on that front. The GAA is probably a model of subsidiarist organisation, with decision-making taking place at grass roots, a feature noted by John Bradley. Oh, and the GAA raises revenue at the lowest level – the parish.

  62. Hi folks,

    Sorry for the late reply. Work has been busy!

    Thanks for all the considered replies. Again, there’s football and wider debates.

    Regarding the urban areas … I think there are other draws in urban areas too. Firstly, there’s more sporting options. I also think rural clubs are much better at harvesting whatever resources they have, because they simply have to in order to survive.
    In urban areas, those clubs can, to some degree, just allow natural selection to take place. But then how many keen and willing Gaels might be lost this way? Not all of us are talented but we might be very enthusiastic. I think it is certainly a discussion worth having.
    Interesting points South Mayo Exile on Killarney except that Spa is quite rural, probably the equivalent of Islandeady while Breaffy is part of the overall Castlebar catchment too. Tralee might be a better example where you’ve four urban clubs, two of whom were in the county final and a third are Intermediate champs.
    When you consider Westport, for example, have ten times the national school population of Kiltane, 20 times Ballycroy’s and 40 times Lacken’s, the gulf is obvious.
    The solutions less so but maybe tease out the debate a little and see where we go.

    Toe to hand, interesting point on sewerage and planning. I was unaware of that. In terms of what county do we want, I agree totally. I don’t think it needs to be an either/or scenario either but I do think a wide ranging, county wide discussion about the type of county we need is important. Vital, in fact.

    Great points Revellino on Ardagh. A great example of bottom up ‘development’. As much as we rightly decry national government on these issues, sometimes the right type of people can make a big difference on the ground. We can do plenty more for ourselves and there’s some good examples of that around the county.

    Oilean Acla … the difference a reasonably sized industry would make for somewhere like Achill. Sadly I don’t think political pull on its own will do it. The IDA are very city focused. There are very few site visits to Mayo, never mind the rural parts.

    We only have one plan … this pull towards third levels is a huge problem. INdustry often piggy backs on the third level institutions and with so many in Dublin, industry will be drawn there too in pursuit of graduates.

    Catcol, a fine contribution. I think proper engagement at the lowest level is desirable though I would share your fears. We often get alarmist at the wrong things …
    That being said, there was much moaning about the abolition of the town councils in 2014. At the time, I didn’t see why. Having covered those meetings for the paper, I saw very little meaningful budgets and very little engagement by the residents of those towns in their town councils (Westport an honourable exception).
    What I see now is it was not the principle of the town councils that were the issue, rather it was the lack of authority and finance that stymied them. We are seeing that now with county councils too, where the authority of elected members is stripped right back and so much decision making rests with unelected officials. Councillors can get very little done these days, mostly they can just grill officials about decisions taken and try to hold them to account.
    This has to change. So, too, does the quality of politicians we have, by and large.

    The more you look at this whole situation, the more you realise how many issues are tied up in it … Employment, infrastructure, education, planning, environment, politics etc etc.

    It is certainly an issue we will be keeping with in The Mayo News, as we have done across recent years. Our What’s Best for the West series last year was an example of that.

    Thanks again folks,


  63. Ed, as a starting point on what county we want I think it should be in 3 parts. (Part 1) An online questionnaire (or postal) for every household in the county, Mayo people outside the county and the dispora. A census of type, with very specific questions around work, services, future, needs, demands etc, (Part 2) A second questionnaire to community organisations such as community councils, gaa etc, again with very specific questions to be answered. (Part 3) The appointment of a parish representative outside of town centres to meet on a north south east west basis at first to dicuss the findings to develop a useful implementable report. There’s a lot to this in particular the information to be sought and assiminating this into a useful document going forward.
    Just in relation to Councillors I think their role is more in the present or at least a reactive role. No disrespect to any Councillors, many of whom are excellent and a minority of whom are well let’s leave it there, but so many decisions are made by specialised people now who are competent to make the decisions. These decisions are then explained and discussed with the Councillors who approve, decline or amend the decision in the best interest of the people. I’ve never seen a good idea not get funding so I wouldn’t get hung up on the power of funding.
    Where money will be important is fully funded group to drive this initiative will need to be set up or the role becomes part of an existing intity such as Leader.
    That’s all I have for now

  64. Great post, Catcol. The fact that our local democracy is so weak and toothless has not helped rural Ireland, nor did the abolition of town councils which was one of the single worst decisions made by Fine Gael post-recession – Ed, I take your point about the stuff that went on at them, but when the proposition on offer is so tokenistic and the power so weak it’s hard to attract people into those roles with a strategic mindset. And there are some great councillors in this county who do question things, who do work for their communities and who genuinely do want to make a difference.

    Ed, the point you make about unelected officials making so many decisions is spot on – and in many cases, officials do not live in or understand the towns about which they are making important – and subjective – decisions, and deem it unnecessary to engage with the communities that have to live with the outcomes. Councils themselves are very under-resourced in certain departments but there can be a significant disconnect between local authorities and communities that is rarely acknowledged, and instead of productive partnerships that would benefit communities, we have tension, conflict and delays that in many cases are unnecessary. There are of course some excellent exceptions to this and those examples should be held up and celebrated, but the lack of accountability is a real issue, but until it is acknowledged or people start demanding accountability, it won’t change.

    I think one of the reasons there is resistance to things like the local property tax is borne out of the fact that people can’t see evidence of it being used in their local areas. That could be a communications issue as much as anything else but when people are promised things like better footpaths and street lighting and they don’t arrive, they will start to begrudge it and wonder where their money is going. I am pretty left-leaning and I am absolutely not opposed to the property tax (or water charges, incidentally), but I would like to see more transparency and better communication around how and where it is spent.. I should offer the disclaimer that as a long-term renter struggling to buy, I am not yet in a position to pay property tax, but at this point would bite the hand of you to have the opportunity to do so.

    Re FDI, Ballina saw the other side of this a few years back with the loss of Henniges and Asahi in quick succession with the loss of over 500 jobs with the space of three or four years. I would argue that the town is still feeling the effects of that two decades later. FDI is great and can deliver well-paid employment but an over-reliance on it is dangerous in rural areas. That said, we do still rely heavily on it here and thankfully what we have seems pretty secure for now.

    Toe to hand – resource to deliver on plans and initiatives is key. I work in the community development sector (it’s rewarding, but is probably why I am struggling to buy a home!!) and unlike five or ten years ago there is no problem any more getting funding – there is any amount of it out there which is fantastic. What we are lacking is the manpower to deliver on projects. While volunteerism is great and some of the best projects I’ve seen over the past 20 or 30 years were bottom-up, led by volunteers, an over-reliance on volunteering, especially in sparsely populated areas when people have so many additional demands on their time is not sustainable any more. If each municipal district was allocated even one additional development worker through community development companies (not the council) I believe it would be transformative. But when we are seeing such massive cuts in programmes like LEADER , combined with the insane level of bureaucracy involved, I wouldn’t be too hopeful.

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