Comhdháil Bhliantúil Comhairle Chonnacht Connacht Convention 2020.
A Iar-Uachtarán, Oifigigh an Chomhairle, Oifigigh an Chontae, Oifigeach eile, agus a dhaoine uaisle go leir. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a fhearradh romhaibh go Comhdháil Bhliantúil Comhairle Chonnacht 2020 anocht.
IT has been a great honour and privilege for me to hold the office of Connacht Council President for my second year, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to address you here tonight.
Looking back over 2019, Gaelic games in the province are in a very healthy state. We had a very entertaining Connacht Championship in all grades and all codes, with the minor and under 20 football championship really stealing the headlines.
I want to pay a special tribute to the Corofin Gaa Club, All Ireland Club Champions for their enormous achievement in completing three All Ireland club Championship successes in a row. Corofin you are a credit to your Community, County and Province.
Sincere Congratulations to everybody involved.
Likewise heartiest congratulations to Oughterard on winning the All Ireland Intermediate Club championship. This is a huge achievement for Oughterard and I extend to them our heartiest congratulation.
This speaks for the standard of club football in Galway with two Clubs winning Senior and Intermediate Club All Irelands.
All our provincial representatives, St Thomas’s, Tooreen, Michael Breathnachs, in hurling, and Kilmaine our junior football Champions, while not reaching the final stage, all performed very well and did themselves, their clubs and their Counties and their Province proud.
Unfortunately throughout the year there were occasions when some units within our Province got much unwanted criticism in the National and Social Media. This is wrong and very unfair, particularly when the units in question were doing nothing wrong. These units have acquitted themselves very well, and should not be subjected to torrents of abuse to which they were exposed. This type of abuse is not acceptable.
We must remember that the people who run our County Boards do so in a voluntary capacity. When we consider that, on election, they take on responsibility of a Multimillion Euro business in a voluntary capacity, and are expected to run the business in their spare time. Don’t forget all our volunteers have to do their day job to do and a life to live.
Continuously there are growing pressures on the officers of our County Boards. I believe it is becoming ever increasingly difficult for volunteering officers of County boards to take on the very onerous administrative tasks that have now become an integral part of running our organisation. As a result of these growing pressures and workloads, very good potential officers are walking away; they don’t want to get involved. Unfortunately this applies to both Club and County officers. If this trend is to continue the very grassroots of the association will crumble and decay as nobody will want to do the job. We all know the effects that this will have on our association.
I believe the GAA as an organisation has evolved so much, that it has out grown the administration template that has served the association so well for so many years in the past.
Governance will always be an issue for the Gaa at both Club and County level, and I urge club and County officers to apply due diligence to the running their affairs. With the huge increase in the annual budgets required to administer the activities of both Clubs and County Committee’s, finance is always the main area of concern. However there are many other areas of concern in relation to policies and procedures, in the running of a GAA Committee’s that require constant attention.
OPERATIONS /FINANCIAL MANAGER
However, with all the pressure that is on County Boards I believe the time has come that each County should have an Operations / Financial manager. It’s important to differentiate between Operations/ financial Manager and a Commercial Manager, because all pressures that I refer to are not of a financial nature. In reality, the role of a Commercial Manager is to raise money.
As I said not all pressures are of a financial nature, but the assistance of a qualified Operations Manager would greatly ease the pressure on already overworked County officers as they would have the assistance and guidance of a qualified person to deal with the many difficult situations that arrive on their desks on a daily basis. A person qualified to deal with these issues would be a huge benefit to both County and indeed Club officials
I’m not saying that County Board officers are not capable of doing this job but I think that assistance of this nature would leave their job much easier to do.
Having read reports from County Convention all around the Country, it is apparent that the Expenditure of County team preparation is totally out of control to an extent that it cannot be sustained.
ACT Now before this out of control machine crashes. Collectively the figure spent on Intercounty teams in the last year is in excess of € 30 million, with some Counties spending well over the million mark. This cannot continue. Why are we so obsessed with spending millions on intercounty teams when there is very little evidence that expenditure of this nature has brought any County nearer to winning an All-Ireland?
In the last twenty years in football only 4 Counties, with the exception of Dublin and Kerry, have won the Sam Maguire Cup, yet we continue to spend millions. Is this money well spent? The answer is NO!
This is financial folly and makes absolutely no sense.
I fully appreciate the pressure County Board officers come under to provide this money, so now I believe that in order to address this problem County Boards need assistance and support from Croke Park. I’m suggesting that budgets for the preparation of each Intercounty team should be subject to the approval of The National Financial Management Committee in Croke Park.
TIME TO CHANGE
It’s time to act now
In order to tackle this problem,
(1) A capped budget for each County team should be agreed between County Boards officers and the National Financial Management Committee with only provision for Percentage Incremental increases, success related to be incorporated.
(2 ) A projected budget is agreed at the start of the year, and following the teams exit from all competition, a transparent and itemised report of how the budget was spent is forwarded to the County Executive, to the Provincial Council, and to the National Financial Management Committee.
This I believe would be of great assistance to County Boards to address the out of control financial expenditure on County teams.
The GAA SLOGAN, WHERE WE ALL BELONG
If the GAA as an organisation is to continue to be the place where we all belong, I believe there are many influences that are presently tearing the association apart, need to be addressed, and if not addressed will destroy our organisation.
The influence of Team Managers who are putting training regimes in place from November till the time the team exit the All Ireland series is destroying the association. This has a detrimental effect on our players, to the extent that players are not enjoying their game anymore. Why are so many top Intercounty Players opting out? Why are young and prospective players declining the offer to be part of the Inter County Panel? They feel that the exhaustive commitment placed upon them is not worth it. The ESRI report published in 2018 gave clear indication that modern GAA Players were been pushed too hard by respective County Team Managers. The players themselves are saying ‘scale it back, Commitment, time and professional standard setting, has gone too far. Enjoyment is leaving the game.’ Others are asking ‘that it becomes more enjoyable again and less of a non-stop chase’. These issues have been highlighted in the 2018 Report ‘’The reality of being a senior inter county player’’.
2019 ESRI report states that 80% of college students say they had difficulty balancing their studies and playing Gaelic games due to the pressure exerted on them by their team mangers. That is not right.
Eilish o Kelly ESRI researcher and Author of the report clearly states, ‘’unless the underlying devises that are giving rise to the current intercounty commitment levels are identified and addressed the future knock on effects are likely to be amplified among future generation of players.’’
Has anything changed or will anything change?
Action needs to be taken now.
(2) FIXTURES: The Brexit of GAA.
I’m convinced that we have too many fixtures and some competitions need to be removed from our fixture Calendar and the under 20 should be changed to under19, hence U 13, U15, U17, U19.
I welcome the recently published, Fixtures Review Committee Report, chaired by Eddie o Sullivan, , and I believe that the recommendation’s that they have provided us with, are the basis for the change that we need, and can lead us to a situation where we can have a proper calendar of GAA fixtures at Club and County.
I strongly recommend the proposal to divide the Country into 4 regions. This not in any way an attempt to undermine the Provincial Councils, as the role of the Provincial Councils would not change. This proposal would introduce an equitable competition where every county would have the same number of games to qualify for the latter games in the series.
This to me would go a long way to solve our fixture problem, but as some Counties would have to Change regions, my fear is that it will encounter the N I M B Y syndrome. It’s ok As long as it is not in my back yard, or as long as it does not affect my County.
In any change it is also important that New York and London are afforded the opportunity to continue to compete in the All Ireland series.
(3) RULE CHANGE.
Constant rule change is another problem.
We must resist the requests for new rules to change the pattern of our games. Why do we have to change our rules so often and incorporate rules in our game that are borrowed from other sports? These rule changes continue to confuse Players, and supporters, alike and are extremely difficult for referee’s to implement. Leave our rules alone because when implemented properly the rules of Gaelic games have server us well.
We need to rescue our organisation from the claws of Elitism, where we spend millions on an elite group, while the clubs, the grassroots of the association are struggling to survive. Its time maybe to balance our expenditure and not forget the ones most in need.
Two Tier Competitions.
The format for the future All Ireland Football Championship was decided at special congress in 2019. While there are murmurs of dissatisfaction out there to the two tier competition, I BELIEVE TWO TIERS IS NOT ENOUGH, but I’m happy it is GOOD STARTING POINT. I hope it will be marketed sufficiently to make it attractive for the Counties who will participate.
I welcome the Talent Academy and Player Review report and I sincerely hope that its finding will be taken on board in all our Counties. It recommends a player pathway which would involve players, parents, Clubs and Counties in a player pathway frame work with less emphasis on elite Development squads. There is no evidence that the development squads as they have been organised has progressed or enhanced the performance of the participating players but has in actual fact created a divide between players at club level where squad players felt they were superior to the ordinary club player. This is doing nothing for the club players.
Once again the organising of Féile in the Province was again an outstanding success with massive attendance at the finals here at the Centre of Excellence. The success of this year’s Féile can once again be attributed to the hard working Féile committee led by Chairperson John Hopkins and Secretary Michael O Connor who done outstanding work in coordinating this event. I also pay tribute to all the Counties Feile Committee’s for their efforts in making the competition such a success. Also to everybody here at the Centre of Excellence for the huge amount of work done in organising this event.
CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
Once again the Centre of Excellence can report another excellent year as usage has increased on a yearly basis with more and more Counties and Clubs making use of the great facilities here. It is with great excitement that we look forward to the opening of our world standard indoor playing pitch. It is a credit to the Connacht Council that we will have the biggest indoor playing facility in the country in which full size GAA games can be played regardless of weather conditions. I commend everybody associated with this development, all the staff at the Centre of Excellence, but in particular the man with the vision, the initiative, the foresight, the expertise, to provide a facility of this nature in the province , that man of course is our Provincial Secretary John Prenty.
I believe that in order to really complete the magnificent facility here at the Connacht Centre of Excellence, we need to provide team accommodation and swimming pool facilities so we can cater for Club and County teams mid or weekend Training Camps.
As per the five year rule a number of our delegates are retiring from the Council. Collectively we have paid tribute to them at our awards night and tonight I want to thank them sincerely for their contribution to the working of the Council. I wish you all well; some are going to higher office on Central Council to join the other County delegates who have served their apprenticeship here in Connacht Council.
I welcome the new delegates to the Council and I hope your time on the Council will be an enjoyable one. I look forward to working with you.
I wish our new PRO John Joe Holleran from Galway a long standing servant of GAA at both County and Provincial level and to wish John Joe the very best in his new role, and I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.
To all the Committees of the Council who have worked very hard throughout the year, I want to say a very special word of gratitude. I want in particular highlight the great work done by our Health and Well Being /Games for All Committee in the promotion of Wheelchair Hurling. To our dedicated delegates who have been extremely supportive of all our initiative throughout the year I say a sincere thank you.
As the Liaison officer on behalf of Coiste Bainistíochta for Rounders Ireland, I want to Compliment the people in the Province who are working hard to promote the sport and recognise the progress they are making.
I want to sincerely thank all our outstanding volunteers who assist the Council in the various tasks assigned to them.
To all the new officers of five County Boards I wish you well and I look forward to working with you in the year ahead
To All the staff at the Centre of Excellence, I sincerely thank you for your huge commitment and dedication to the work of Connacht GAA in your various capacities.
To all the families who have suffered bereavements throughout the Province on behalf of the Connacht Council I extend my sincere sympathy.
Finally it has been a great honour for me to serve as your Uachtarán for the last year and to everybody that I worked with I thank you for your advice, assistance, patience, and support during the year and I look forward to working with you in 2020.
Go raibh mile mhaith agat.
Uachtarán Comhairle Chonnacht.