Emigration is hitting the GAA hard according to new figures – with North America attracting the majority of young people seeking employment.

A report in the Sunday Independent outlines that that Croke Park authorities have approved 642 international transfers already in 2013.

And officials have warned that the huge traffic in departures from football and hurling clubs all across Ireland shows little sign of slowing down.

Over 300 players have signed for clubs under the auspices of the North American County Board this year, many of them emigrating to Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

A total of 238 young hurlers and footballers have moved to Australia with 80 transfers to clubs in Britain.

New York figures are yet to be compiled for 2013 but clubs in Ireland are being hit hard by the drain in numbers.

The report says that some clubs are looking to play 13-a-side championship games while many juvenile clubs are being forced to amalgamate with neighbouring parishes.

Leitrim County Board secretary Diarmuid Sweeney told the Sunday Independent: “I have definitely noticed a lot of movement with internal transfers and there is also a big reduction with international transfers so far this year.

“Lads are coming back to Ireland in dribs and drabs too, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve actually got a few players back onto the Leitrim senior panel, fellows who were gone away. Ronan Gallagher and Barry Prior are back now.

“I think that for general club players who move away, some of those have either completed their tour or year out or have found that there is also a lack of work abroad because 18 months ago it looked like there was no end to the exodus.

“I think some lads seemed to be going because everyone else was leaving.”

The Leitrim Board has worked with recruitment agency Collins McNicholas who helped their players with contacts, updating and improving their CVs, job-specific training and also assisted them in interview processes.

Sweeney added: “We actively did something and some of the lads have got jobs. It’s still a very hard time for the GAA and in rural areas as well, but I’m not convinced that amalgamation is the long-term solution so you have to try everything to keep a player.

“You can’t win every time but as I’ve said a few more are coming back and the outward traffic has decreased. That’s a positive anyway.”

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