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Stark warning as emigration continues to hit Donegal GAA hard

Aodh Mairtin O Fearraigh.

Aodh Mairtin O Fearraigh.

BY CHRIS MCNULTY

AODH Máirtín Ó Fearraigh, the Donegal County Board Secretary, believes some clubs in Donegal could find themselves struggling to field teams, if the number of players transferring out of the county continues at its current level.

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In 2013, 98 players transferred permanently out of Donegal, the highest number since 2010, Mr Ó Fearraigh’s first year as secretary.

Now at the end of his fourth year in the position, the Gaoth Dobhair man has outlined the stark numbers in his annual report to county convention, which takes place on Sunday next in Letterkenny’s Mount Errigal Hotel.

During his time as secretary 339 players have been transferred out of Donegal, with only 139 incoming in the same period.

The 98 adult players that have left Donegal’s confines in 2013, the secretary notes is ‘ the equivalent of five full club teams’. Only five of the forty clubs in the county are absent from the list of those losing players in 2013: St Michael’s, Malin, Cloughaneely, Naomh Padraig Lifford and Naomh Colmcille.

“These figures are alarming and pose a serious threat to small rural clubs in particular,” Mr Ó Fearraigh wrote.

“At present, there is no evidence that there are less teams competing in our competitions, but if these transfers continue at the present rate, this will impact on the ability of clubs to field teams.

“While we may rue the departure of these players to greener pastures, our Association is now in every corner of the globe, and a unit of our Association in another part of the world will welcome these players with open arms, and ensure they feel at home.”

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Three clubs – St Eunan’s, Sean MacCumhaills and Buncrana – had the highest number of outgoing transfers in 2013, with seven.

However, Donegal panelists Ryan Bradley and Ross Wherity are not included among as they have not been transferred, although they are now based in Abu Dhabi and New York respectively. Nor are the two Milford players – Lorcan Friel and Anthony McPaul – who emigrated after the club won the Junior Championship, included as they have not been transferred yet.

Despite the high volume of transfers, GAA membership in Donegal is at an all-time high. On foot of the 2012 All-Ireland win, an increase of 7,536 members was recorded in 2013. The total membership now stands at 21,692.

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