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RUNNING FOR COVER; GAA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS Kerry chief Walsh in the race for GAA's top job but he's got massive concerns over the Association's clubs as players emigrate in their thousands.

Byline: PAT NOLAN

BY PAT NOLAN GAA presidential hopeful Sean Walsh believes that clubs across the country will have to amalgamate in the coming years.

The Kerry native says that, with the changing economic climate in Ireland in recent years, the traditional parish rule that applies in most counties will inevitably fall by the wayside in a lot of cases.

Current president Liam O'Neill has warned clubs to think carefully before amalgamating with others due to the risks of losing an identity which may be irretrievable.

However, Walsh said: "It is one area that will require rule changes and definitely in our own county.

"Whether we like it or not the reality is that we will not have the same parish units playing together in 10 years time by virtue of the fact that so many of our young people have to emigrate to find employment.

"It behoves us all as an Association to ensure that we are able to provide a level of competition that will allow players to remain in their own area, through group teams or amalgamated teams.

"It will have to happen down the line to allow us to have games for all. The parish rule is sacrosanct for many people because what they have they want to hold within the parish, but they can only hold it of they have the numbers.

"We cannot, as an Association, prevent people from playing our games by virtue of the fact that they haven't got enough of numbers.

"Whether that means group teams or amalgamated teams then we will have to have a change of mindset to allow everyone who wants to, to play our games."

Walsh, having previously served as Kerry and Munster Council chairman, had his nomination as a presidential candidate passed by the Kerry board earlier this week, joining Cavan's Aogan O Feargail in the race to succeed O'Neill.

The election will take place at Congress next March with the winner assuming office 12 months later. Walsh also identified tackling the financial strife that numerous clubs and counties find themselves in as one of the core issues in his presidential bid.

"Some of our clubs across the country are struggling financially and some of our county boards are struggling financially by virtue of the fact that the downturn in our economy has hit everyone.

"It's incumbent on the president of the GAA to give guidance and help to the counties and the clubs because over the next five years, they will need it in abundance.

"I believe my track record in this regard is a big plus if I was fortunate enough to assume the highest office."

Walsh added that becoming president was never a career goal as he moved through the administrative ranks at club, county and provincial level.

"Even when I became chair of the Kerry county board, it was just a great honour for me, coming from such a small club.

"I put all my heart and soul into it and even then there was no plan to become chairman of Munster."

irishsport@trinitymirror.com

The reality is that we will not have the same parish units playing together in 10 years

CAPTION(S):

KINGDOM CANDIDATE Former Kerry and Munster chairman Sean Walsh at Croke Park

CHAMPION With Kerry stars on Ireland duty and with Pat O'Shea in '07
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Title Annotation:Sport; Opinion, Columns
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 3, 2013
Words:557
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