Lifebood of communities being lost
As hurricane strength winds lashed Donegal this week, some of the youngest and brightest minds in the county are leaving by the plane load, with hundreds - many active GAA players - due to fly out in the coming weeks to begin new lives throughout the world.
Long recognised as the most damning economic barometer of how bad the problem is, a number of GAA clubs here look set to lose a whole generation of young people to ‘forced’ emigration as our special survey of Donegal GAA clubs reveals. Our sports team undertook the mammooth task of contacting 32 GAA clubs and have discovered that all of them are extremely worried about the year ahead with some losing first team players.
Chairman of the Donegal GAA County board, PJ McGowan acknowledged: “The numbers leaving the county have increased significantly over the last twelve months.”
His comments have been backed up by Fr Brian Quinn, a former Donegal GAA county board treasurer and President of the Letterkenny Gaels GAA club, when he spoke of the lifeblood of many local parishes being sucked dry by the mass exodus of players, but notably this time, it also includes many younger females as well as males.
Fr Quinn revealed: “I read the same stories as everybody else, about the exodus of our young people abroad; it is something that is terrible to contemplate. I have seen parents cry, evoking memories of bygone times. And as in times past, it is through necessity, rather than choice. “Parents have told me that they never expected to have to see their children ever leave Ireland again through necessity. These people are the very lifeblood of parish and club that we are losing.”
He added: “I honestly think that the loss of so much talent is immeasurable in terms of the dynamics of the community.”
Another telling point in recent weeks, has been the GAA annual general meetings, “where many have found it difficult to fill committees,” he said.
Among the worst affected are Milford, who have lost up to 20 players, while Naomh Mhuire, Na Rossa, St. Mary’s (Convoy), St. Naul’s, Naomh Brid, Aodh Ruadh, Red Hugh’s, Robert Emmet’s, Sean MacCumhaill’s, Urris, Carndonagh and Bundoran losing first team players.
Hurling clubs have also been affected with Four Masters hit badly last year, being unable to field and having to amalgamate with Aodh Ruadh.
All of the clubs contacted have growing fears that they will be hit by players leaving at the end of the student year. The Urris senior team reached the semi-finals of the Intermediate Championship two years in-a-row and on the second occasion, in 2009, they lost out against Fanad Gaels. From that team, Urris have lost no less than 8 players, most of whom have emigrated to Boston.
Another example is Robert Emmetts who have lost in the region of nine players in the last two years with many of them established first team members.
While Australia is the main port of call for those leaving, Canada, USA and England are also high on the agenda ofthoseseekingemployment away from these shores.