Emigration and the GAA: A follow-up

[You can read Ciaran’s original post here.]

Having previously provided an overview on the issue of emigration and the GAA, I will now provide an analysis of the results I have gathered from GAA clubs in south Dublin. Through my research I proved that emigration was not just a rural problem but was happening in urban areas too. I came across many difficulties GAA clubs are experiencing because of the problem of mass emigration. The GAA clubs I chose to study ranged in size and age. It was clear from the findings that all GAA clubs are experiencing side-effects connected to emigration. It is easy for one to say that emigration affecting the GAA is a terrible thing; the permanent loss of players means teams struggle to field teams. This was the opinion I had before I started this thesis, but by the time I finished I realized that this is just one of many problems affecting GAA clubs in south Dublin.

Many problems currently exist within GAA clubs that are connected to emigration. One such problem is that of club finance in GAA clubs. With growing emigration, many clubs are left with a decrease in annual membership income.  But the most striking problem I came across when researching this topic was that of GAA clubs poaching players. One of the six clubs I studied in south Dublin is suffering badly from poaching. When dealing with GAA matters, poaching is where a big GAA club would take a player from a smaller GAA club with the promise of greater success. Due to the current economic climate leading to mass emigration, large GAA clubs are ‘poaching’ players from other teams more often because they too have players emigrating and want to replace them. Before I conducted this thesis I had heard players leaving for different clubs but never knew that the process of ‘poaching’ was occurring to a large extent.

Another important detail that I came across was that temporary emigration was having just as big effect on GAA clubs as permanent emigration. Some of the GAA clubs I researched stated that many of their players who are university students emigrate to the USA on a J1 visa for the months in-between college as there is no summer work to be found in Ireland. All GAA championships and league are played in the summer months, so this can have a serious effect on GAA clubs. Not only do GAA teams have to cater for the players who have emigrated permanently but they also have to consider other options for their university students who more-than-likely seem to emigrate for the summer.

When looking back over my thesis, my feelings towards the issue got stronger and stronger. Emigration seems to growing with more tradesmen and students emigrating for a better quality of life aboard. I can only hope that the issue will be highlighted and that  serious initiatives will be developed to save both GAA clubs and a generation of youth in Ireland.

Ciaran Murphy


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