Oraid an Uachtaran Connacht Convention 2021
Ba mhaith liom failte a chur romhaibh go léir tráthnóna inniu go dtí An Chomhdháil Bhliantúil 2021.
Ta áthas orm fáilte a chur romhaibh don chéad uair mar Uachtarán.
Blain ghnothach a bhí ann agus tharla a lán rudái maithe in ainneoin an Covid-19.
Good evening, it is my great pleasure and honour to welcome you to the 2021 Connacht Convention and address you at the end of my first year as President of Connacht Council.
It was an eventful and busy year despite the ravages of the Covid-19 Pandemic. As is the case with human nature we all get on with daily life as best we can and thankfully most of us can do so quite well. It is an indication of the great association we are part of, and indeed the huge help sport in general is, that we can get through such challenging times.
I would like to pay tribute to all of you, your counties and clubs for the wonderful part you played in your communities over the past two years.
THE NUI GALWAY CONNACHT GAA AIRDOME.
The Dome was officially opened by Uachtarán CLCG, Larry McCarthy, on December 12th last.
It is an outstanding development and is just reward for the members of the Council who had the foresight to pursue this project over the years.
We have to especially acknowledge the drive and guidance of our Runai, John Prenty together with the full time staff who continued to follow the dream despite some opposition.
It is the biggest indoor sporting arena of its type in the world and we should all be justly proud.
I must acknowledge all sponsors who have contributed, but most of all I acknowledge the generous sponsorship of our partners in the Dome NUI Galway. This is a partnership that will work extremely well over the coming years as both organisations strive to achieve sustainability and empower our communities.
I wish to thank NUI Galway and acknowledge their president, Dr Ciaran O hOgartaigh, for his support in this partnership deal.
There are many other sponsors and I thank them all.
There is great activity taking place in the Dome on a daily basis from games, training, panel assessments and most recently the entire FBD League was played here. The Connacht Hurling League commences in the Dome tomorrow night.
The FBD league commenced with the Sligo V Leitrim match and concluded with the final played between Galway & Roscommon.
It is fair to say that, players, supporters, media and officials enjoyed this historic event greatly. The feedback from all has been extremely positive.
Earlier, November 2021, The All Ireland Scor Sinsear finals of 2020 were held in the Dome and this proved to be a wonderful success.
This displays the diversity of the venue and next month we will host the National Congress – another historic event for us.
The Dome completes this phase of an outstanding sporting campus and it is now the job of the council that all units in the province avail of these facilities.
As I stated at the opening, this COE is for all of Connacht and we want as many clubs/counties to use it and avail of the expertise available in the offices.
It is our intention, when restrictions ease, to invite each county to an open evening and to showcase what is available to them on the Campus.
That expertise is varied –
- Coaching/Testing/ Provincial Games Manager – Cathal Cregg
Accessing Teams: assisted by Damian Coleman (Hurling) and
Daniel Ford (Strength & Conditioning).
- Administration: Operations Manager – Adrian Hassett.
- Sustainability & Facilities Manager – Kurt Reinhart.
- Public Relations: Brian Mangan.
Our Runaí John Prenty oversees all of this and we would be more than disappointed if all or any units did not avail of this world class facility.
I encourage you to enjoy it and to spread the word to your clubs.
Finally, I acknowledge the various bodies that gave financial support to the project
- The aforementioned sponsors
- Department of Rural and Community Affairs
- CLCG and the Finance Department in Croke Park.
- Connaught Council.
I wish to acknowledge the staff at the centre for all their work throughout the year. They do not adhere to a 39 hour week. They just do all the work in whatever time it takes and ask no questions.
We are blessed and fortunate to have such a dedicated work force.
I, as President am grateful for that. The same can be said of the council members and I also wish to acknowledge them.
You all make my time so pleasant and enjoyable – thank you all.
Unfortunately, there were no provincial or All Ireland Club competitions last year but thankfully all counties completed their club competitions successfully.
In football Padraig Pearse’s (Ross), St. Faithleachs (Ross) and Kilmeena (Mayo) won the Senior, Intermediate and Junior Connacht Titles respectively.
In Hurling Toreen are intermediate champions while Salthill/Knocknacora are junior champions. I wish them all well in the All-Ireland Series together with St. Thomas Galway at Senior Hurling.
The Connacht Intercounty competitions were all completed and the main talking point here was the moving of our senior final to Croke Park. This was an inspired decision by our CCC as it allowed for 18,000 spectators to attend as opposed to 5,000 locally.
All patrons were delighted to have the opportunity to support their team and it was a great lift to both communities.
I congratulate all winners of provincial titles but I have to single out our minors – Sligo who won the Connacht Minor final for the first time since 1968 – what’s rare is wonderful!
The pandemic fast tracked the implementation of the split season and as this enormous change in the association beds down it will prove to be an inspired move. Over the years to come the association and more importantly the clubs will benefit greatly from this change.
There maybe some initial issues with the split season but as we move forward and address any small points together with getting used to the new formats this will prove to be an excellent and positive decision.
At the Special Congress in September a proposal to alter the format of the intercounty championship was defeated narrowly.
While it is widely accepted that there is a need to alter the current format, I believe it was good that the proposal was not successful.
In my opinion it would have devalued the worth of the provincial championships as it was proposed to run them in January/February. It should be noted and understood that revenue from the Connacht Championships has contributed greatly to units within the province in the form of club grants, scholarships, and coaching. It has also been hugely important in funding our Centre of Excellence which now stands as a model for all Irish Sporting Organisations and through outstanding financial management is debt free.
Change is necessary and I applaud the Uachtarán and the current committee for bringing forward the two new proposals which are being discussed at present and one of which will go to congress at the end of February.
I believe the green proposal to be most favourable.
- It allows for the provincial championships to be played at a more favourable time.
- Tailteann Cup winners will have a place in the Sam Maguire competition the year following their win.
- It retains the league, which is an excellent competition, as it is currently constituted.
- In the red proposal the provincial winners start the Sam Maguire competition with 2 pts and runners up with 1 pt. which invariably will favour the stronger counties.
- The green proposals will lead to a greater chance of competitive games all through with the Tailteann Cup being equally competitive.
The successful proposal should lead to the desired change and ultimately lead to more attractive competitions.
I would urge all counties to debate the merits of both and be ready for congress.
On an overall issue, the success of this proposal will require that the Tailteann Cup be strongly and correctly promoted by Coiste Bainasti and the principal decision makers.
One of the positives of Covid-19 is that it has brought about a decrease in spending by county boards with each county in the province returning a surplus this year.
I would suggest that competition in all grades remained very good therefore excess spending is not necessary for success.
I would urge the counties to consider this benefit when negotiating budgets for their various teams.
While money is necessary to prepare your teams it ultimately does not guarantee success.
The talent and commitment of players, management and county boards win provincial and All Ireland Titles.
Infrastructure projects have slowed down during the pandemic and this is good as it allows all of us to take stock.
Development is necessary for the Association to evolve but it must be done in a planned, well costed way and in consultation with all of us.
Club developments should be sanctioned by the Club Executive, County Board and Connacht Council. If it is a major development, it may need national financial approval.
As I continue to point out, this is not to thwart development but more to protect each unit and ultimately the association from an unnecessary debt and difficulties.
Nationally there have been major developments during the Celtic tiger and since. A lot of these have been successful stories but there are some that have been disastrous and troublesome.
Due to all of this the National Finance Committee and the Connaught Council have great experience and knowledge. For this reason alone, advice should be sought before any unit commences a project. Such advice is freely available.
When developing projects always remember that it will have to be sustained in the years ahead and a financial plan for this should be rebust.
Covid-19 has also fast-tracked cashless transactions at matches throughout the province and in counties. This is the way forward and is to be welcomed. Patrons are more familiar with it now so I believe there is no going back. It will prove to be advantageous for county boards and for finances in general.
A further positive of Covid-19 is the streaming of matches which has transpired to be a great revenue stream for county boards and the province.
Supporters at home and abroad have now come to expect it and it is our duty to continue with it and prefect it. The streaming of the recent FBD league has proved to be an outstanding success, financially and socially and I thank all the staff who made this possible. We should embrace these changes and develop them further where possible.
The pandemic has proved extremely difficult for sports in general but particularly in the education sector.
Competitions in general were suspended last year despite a great effort by all those involved – and I commend them all.
I am glad to report that competitions are up and running for this year and I wish all colleges success and thank those in charge for their commitment to this vital part of our organisation.
As can be seen from the Convention Booklet there are many committees at work within the province and I thank them all for their commitment. I acknowledge you all and appreciate the work you are doing. I thank you for accepting my invitation to join the committee and wish you well for next year.
Everybody should appreciate the great work being done by the many committees and support them at all times – their work is voluntary and time consuming. It is easy to be critical but its so helpful when one is complimentary.
This evening sees the retirement of Martin McCartan as Treasurer of the Council after serving three years.
I wish to thank him for his commitment to the job and to the Council.
He was fair and straight at all times and together with his humour made every situation acceptable.
Thank you, Martin.
I welcome Anthony Flaherty to the Role of Treasurer for the next three years and pledge my support to him.
I extend my sympathy to the families of past members who passed away during the year and to all of you who were bereaved this year.
My thanks to the wonderful staff at the Council, your commitment and time spent promoting the GAA in the province is greatly appreciated and I wish to acknowledge that.
I thank the association continually for their guidance, advice and help in steering us through these difficult times, a job well done.
Finally, I wish to thank John Prenty, Runai for the help and support he afforded me during my first year as president – it has not gone unnoticed and I appreciate it very much. Thank you.
I wish you all good luck and good health for the year ahead and beyond.
For 2022 I would like you to embrace the many positives in the association and here in Connaught, a lot of which I have just outlined, and not to dwell on the negatives.
Life is much easier when we smile.
Sean Ó Murchú