Dia doibh go leir.
Firstly, I would like to thank my proposer and my seconder, my county for nominating me and you the council for accepting me.
This is indeed a great honour for me to be elected President of the Connacht Council.
Its also a great honour for my family, my wife Josephine and four children Ronan, Aoife, Niamh and Sean. We all know that all of what we do for the GAA would not be possible without the full backing and support of our families.
For my club Bonniconlon in North Mayo this is also a big night, as for the first time in the club’s history one of its members has been elected a main officer of the Provincial Council.
For my County again it’s a big honour as this opportunity only comes to any county every fifteen years.
I hope that I can continue to lead this province like all of the great Presidents that have gone before me.
I wish John Murphy the very best as he leaves office. He has been very courteous and helpful to me since I joined the council.
I congratulate Tommie Kelly Galway as he takes over as Vice President. I wish him well with his many duties that go with the role.
I would also take this opportunity to publicly thank Christy Brown who leaves the Council tonight having been the Galway delegate for the past five years. Christy was always a great help to me when I was vice chair especially at different Scór finals throughout the province.
As has been mentioned I come from the Bonniconlon Club in North Mayo right along the Sligo border. I have been involved in that club all my life as a player underage coach and administrator. I have been involved at Divisional Board level and then at County level. That pathway is no different than any of you in the room as you are all belong to a club somewhere throughout Connacht.
Of the many challenges facing the association, one of the big ones must be the continued recruitment of the volunteer. Volunteers have contributed
massively to the GAA since its formation, sometimes with little respect or recognition but in the modern world where people think they have no time to get involved or if they do may expect remuneration for their time, the volunteer is vital to the survival and growth of the Association.
The club is a most important unit of the association. While it’s a very challenging role as a County officer the Club officers have equally as difficult assignment. Clubs are parish based which can lead to its own issues. The GAA is ever changing and not so very long ago really the only officers that had any major responsibilities were the three main officers Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. However now a days every officership is difficult and demanding. Roles that were unheard of in the past such as Children’s officer and Health and Wellbeing are now hugely important and may in some cases be difficult to fill. It is worth noting that some of the Bursaries awarded by Connacht Council in the past few weeks went to students who are involved in the administration side of their Third Level GAA Clubs. Let’s hope that this in turn will help their own clubs in filling officer roles.
Our Schools both Primary and secondary are also a huge and vital part of the GAA. It’s at primary level that many boys and girls are first exposed to our Gaelic games. The work done by teachers down through the years has been and continues to be a massive asset to the organisation. It’s very encouraging to see that across the province over 230 teachers have signed up to take part in the 2023/24 Skills for Schools programme organised and ran by the Coaching and Games Development section here in Connacht. Despite all that it’s very disappointing to read in the Secretary’s report that some County underage managers were preventing some of their panel members from playing second level with their own school and in other cases running very tough county training sessions less than 24 hours before lads were expected to play for their school. This is ridiculous and unfair on the player. While at secondary school every child should have an unfettered opportunity to represent his school as those chances only last for a few years.
Counties and County Boards now have huge workloads and again many carried out on a voluntary basis. They need all the support and help possible.
We are lucky that here in Connacht that numbers are small in compared to other provinces. This to me is an advantage as our pupil- teacher ratio is small which means that every unit under our umbrella has a better opportunity to be heard and listened to and given whatever advice that’s required.
To me the GAA should be all about respect. Respect to our players, team managers, supporters, match officials, administrators, stewards, gate people, grounds people and everyone else who make up this great organisation that we are all part of. Yes, we can have our differences especially inside the whitewash and in Board rooms, but we must show respect.
Our games are our shop window and so we must continue to promote and expose them to even greater audiences.
I look forward with all your help to leading the Association in Connacht. Along with the excellent full-time staff and facilities here at headquarters I hope that we can continue to provide leadership in terms of education, coaching advice and help to our five counties, to our 210 clubs, 400 schools and as a result our 200,000 members will in some way taste the sweet success that is Connacht GAA.
See in the link the Connacht Council Report for 2023 which was presented at the Connacht GAA Convention Monday 15th January.