The GAA publishes details of club transfers – players who move permanently from one GAA club to another – on its website, stretching back to 2003. The figures include interprovincial and international transfers – players moving within Ireland, and players moving to and from Ireland – and offer a fascinating insight into the mobility of young men that covers the Celtic Tiger era as well as the impacts of the recession.

At NUI Maynooth, we’ve looked at these transfers in more detail to see what kinds of migration patterns are emerging. The annual number of transfers has decreased since a peak in 2004, though it is rising again (see Table 1).

Table 1: Annual club transfers, 2004-2010

Year

Number of transfers

2004

2,225

2005

2,095

2006

2,159

2007

1,912

2008

1,526

2009

1,511

2010

1,893

Of the annual transfers, at least 40% are to clubs in Ireland. Britain has become more important as a destination, while Australasia and North America have become less important (see Table 2).

Table 2: Destinations of club transfers, 2004-10 (shown as percentage of total annual transfers)

Ireland Britain North America Australasia

2004

41.7

21.1

17.6

19.6

2005

47.3

20.9

6.1

25.7

2006

43.8

22.6

6.5

27

2007

54.3

18.4

5.6

21.3

2008

54.8

36.6

7.9

0.7

2009

54.5

28.9

9.2

7.3

2010

46.8

39.5

4.8

8.7

Over the period from 2004 to 2010, most counties in Ireland experienced a net loss of players: more players transferred out of clubs in the county than transferred in. The biggest net losses are shown in Table 3, and they show counties in Munster (Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Clare), Connacht (Mayo, Galway) and Ulster (Tyrone, Down, Donegal and Armagh). Just three counties in Ireland experienced a net gain in the period from 2004-2010: these were Louth (+33), Kildare (+10) and Dublin (+3).

Table 3: Net player losses by county, 2004-10.

Highest net losses, 2004-2010

Kerry

-379

Mayo

-369

Cork

-362

Galway

-338

Tipperary

-267

Tyrone

-261

Clare

-220

Down

-197

Donegal

-191

Armagh

-189

These tables represent a preliminary analysis of the GAA transfer statistics. We will look in more detail at transfers between clubs in the coming weeks. In the meantime, though, it is important to be aware that patterns of transfers to and from counties within Ireland have not changed significantly in the period from 2004-2010, which raises questions about why these movements of players are just now being described as a crisis.

Mary Gilmartin (Geography) and Martin Charlton (NCG), NUI Maynooth.

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