DESPITE many calls from delegates for a 45 minute Open Forum to be included at all Offaly County Board meetings, only two clubs forwarded matters for discussion and one of those wasn’t in attendance last Tuesday.
Only Shinrone made the effort to submit proposals and their delegate Ger Maher commented that they considered withdrawing their submission given the lack of responses from other clubs.
However the issues raised by Shinrone were discussed at length by the meeting with a variety of points being raised as a result.
Amongst the issues raised were the need for a two-thirds majority on votes, the power of the ‘top table’, too many committees, over enforcement of some regulations and no enforcement of others and the difficulties facing smaller rural clubs in particular with unemployment and emigration.
The last issue generated the most debate with Mr Maher stating that lack of numbers was a huge issue and he said that there were a lot of problems coming down the line for clubs.
County Board Chairman Pat Teehan commented that with no employment and nothing to occupy their time, it was an opportunity for the GAA to bring people in and be part of the community as it was originally set up to be.
He added that at times GAA Clubs were insular and could become defensive and he asked clubs how many had reached out to see what people who might not yet be members had to offer.
Clara delegate Michael Sheridan commented that so much time was spent worrying about finances in the GAA that not enough time was being given to games and he questioned whether the Association was ‘lacking in the promotion of games’. He agreed Shinrone’s sentiments that there were too many committees which produced reports which were ‘gathering dust’ when another report was being sought. He also highlighted what he described as ‘huge staff numbers in Croke Park’.
Chairman Pat Teehan agreed that at times there could be a greater focus on games.
On the issue of emigration, Vice Chairman Padraig Boland said that rural Ireland in particular was in decline with depopulation. He questioned whether all communities could sustain clubs and he suggested that clubs take a look at their neighbours who could well be struggling the same way.
He noted that urban clubs faced a different challenge and he concluded by saying that Offaly should try and stay a step ahead and challenged delegates to find the best way forward for their clubs.