How is emigration affecting the GAA? A case study of south Dublin clubs

[Note: This is the third of nine guest blog posts written by our 3rd yr Single Hons / Major students. Please feel free to comment!]

The issue of emigration has been ever present in the media since the downturn of the Irish economy. Documentaries such as ‘Departure day’ and ‘Arrivals’ on RTÉ have presented the viewer with the harsh reality of emigration. There are many side-effects to emigration such as an economy losing its most educated and most talented people, but it also has to be said that many organisations lose members and struggle to cope with the deficit.

Saint Finians GAA club of Newcastle Co Dublin have a proud tradition of producing strong and talented GAA teams in various age levels. Although the club has a small population of members, the club has had championship success in the past. As a club member it pains me to see the friends who I have grown up with and players who I admired in the club when I was young, emigrating to find work in other destinations in the world. When you see your own team struggling to find players and pulling out of games and even championships, it leaves you with a feeling of disgust and wondering what is the future of the GAA but more importantly what is the future of your own club?

The issue of emigration is affecting the GAA at both club and county level. When you see stars of the game, leaving the country to find employment elsewhere when they have so much to offer in the game, it is depressing. Take the example of the Louth GAA: they had great success in 2010 with reaching the Leinster final, the first time in 50 years, only to be robbed of victory by Meath. However, despite the loss, being in the championship nearing the end of July was an achievement in itself for a team like Louth. Just like GAA clubs throughout Ireland, the Louth GAA team suffered at the hands of emigration with key players such as John O’Brien and Brian White. This makes it harder for Louth to repeat the success they had in 2010.

Having observed the process of emigration and reading up on the issue I have decided to study the effects emigration is having on other GAA clubs in my area. Emigration has greatly affected the rural and the peripheral regions in Ireland. I would like to see if the process of emigration is a big issue in urban areas such as south Dublin. Through case studies of randomly-selected clubs I hope to find this information through interviews of emigrating players and their managers. I hope to find that although emigration is happening, there is light at the end of the tunnel with figures declining.

Ciaran Murphy

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