Offaly must meet re-building challenge head on

AS he enters the last of his five year stint as Chairperson Pat Teehan urged delegates to enter the new year with the motto to ‘put Offaly GAA as our number one priority as we face the challenges of 2012 as a united stronger county’.

AS he enters the last of his five year stint as Chairperson Pat Teehan urged delegates to enter the new year with the motto to ‘put Offaly GAA as our number one priority as we face the challenges of 2012 as a united stronger county’.

The Coolderry man remarked, “History teaches us that the success of the GAA is dependent on each generation playing their part so as to hand the club and county to the next generation in better shape than what was inherited. Different times bring different challenges. The challenge to our generation is to re-build this county in order to bring success in the future.”

He said among the immediate challenges facing the association are finance, unemployment and emigration and to this end a special meeting, comprising the county board management committee along with the Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer of each club, will be held on Thursday, December 29.

Mr Teehan explained, “This we hope will give everyone an opportunity, to share their views and experiences, plan for the future and hopefully help to maintain a healthy financial situation into the future for club and county. We cannot lose sight of the fact that our Clubs are finding it more and more difficult to sustain themselves.

“Our clubs are increasingly pressurised financially, so it is our intention to help clubs plan for their financial commitments and implement a system whereby an invoice at the beginning of the year will be issued outlining all their financial commitments in terms of affiliations, insurance league fees etc. and a payment procedure will be agreed.”

He referred to the scourge of unemployment and emigration. “The worsening economic situation will only serve to heighten the number of our young people leaving this island in search of employment. Already, many clubs have lost young members to far off lands and in 2012, our clubs are going to be under more pressure as the reality of this renewed emigration bites and many clubs lose even more personnel. We must all work together, to ensure our club units are not weakened in the midst of spiralling emigration.”

Mr Teehan spoke about the need  to ensure clubs are properly structured.

“A properly structured club with the right person in the right job is vital, especially when the number of people involved is ever dwindling. We need to ensure the workload in clubs is shared and that everyone who wants to be involved gets the chance. In particular our rural clubs, with declining population, are facing not only the problem of decreasing numbers but also the problem of maintaining community. “Many of the pillars which went towards the making of a parish community are slowly being eroded – meeting places for rural people are slowly disappearing – Post office, Shop, Pub, Low attendance at Mass etc. so the only constant is the GAA Club. While having no readymade answers I’d ask clubs to help out their members in any way possible and hopefully this will only be a problem of short duration.” He referred to and defended the long drawn out process of appointing new senior hurling and football management teams. “The appointment process, its duration and the people involved in it, came in for much criticism and the matter received extensive air time at the October meeting, therefore I will not add further to it here, other than to say that every member of the committees, appointed to select hurling or football team management, acted at all times in a manner which they perceived to be the best interest of Offaly GAA.

“Now we must move forward, Offaly has been successful in the past because previous generations of Gaels overcame obstacles to keep the GAA alive.  They did so because they had a vision and sense of purpose driven by a love of Cumann Luthcleas Gael, and all that it represents. The bond which held it all together was a love of club and county. In return the GAA gave them a sense of place and a strong identity. They knew who they were, they knew where they came from and they knew where they were going.” Mr Teehan outlined that although 2011 may not have been successful on the inter-county front there is hope for the future.

“We all strive for success and while success may not have been achieved it is no reflection of the preparation or commitment by managers, players or backroom staff of any of our teams. On a more positive note surely the achievements, of Gallen Community School in winning an All-Ireland Football Vocational School title and Coolderry in winning the Leinster Club Hurling title, illustrate that success can again be achieved at inter-county level in both hurling and football.”

He highlighted the necessity to have the correct structures in place to ensure players coming through from clubs and development squads, are properly prepared.

He continued, “In this regard I wish to thank everyone involved in Coaching and Games in the county for the work they continue to do on our behalf. Earlier this year, in order to enhance coaching within the county, we appointed Alan Mulhall as Games Manager.  The onus is now on him, in conjunction with the Coaching & Games Committee, to put in place the correct structures to develop our Coaching and Games network to a new level.

“But this can only be done with the co-operation and support of all the stakeholders involved, The Management Committee of the County Board, Coaching & Games Committee, our schools both at primary and second level, but most of all the clubs.” 

He congratulated All-Ireland Senior and U-21 Hurling Final referees, Brian Gavin and Tony Carroll, respectively and Damien Brazil on taking charge of the All-Ireland minor football semi-final. “That we cannot play our games without referees is a very obvious statement to make, but yet how often do so many of us forget this, when a perceived decision goes against our own team. All of us have a part to play in changing this culture whilst at the same time insisting that the highest possible standard of referring is achieved, and I would ask all our referees to work with us in this regard.

“We are fortunate in this county that at present we have enough referees, but this will soon change if we do not continue to recruit and train new referees. All our clubs can play a big part in this by identifying and encouraging suitable people in their own clubs.

“We will continue to implement and expand the Respect Initiative – respect for each other, for referees and for all adults organising games – we ask all clubs to help and support us in this area and to lead by example.”

Mr Teehan encouraged all clubs to become involved with the alcohol and substance abuse prevention programme and their “Off the Booze On the Ball” initiative which was launched at convention.

“Through this initiative, along with the promotion, organising, and playing of our games, we are aiming to encourage young and old to do something worthwhile with their time while also creating a healthy lifestyle. As a community based sports organisation we are in a unique position to take a leading role in curtailing the ever growing problem, and I thank Liam Hackett for taking on the role of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Officer in this county.”