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Fáilte chuig leinstergaa.ie - suíomh oifigiúil Comhairle Laighean CLG

Oráid an gCathaoirleach

January 15th, 2023

Iar- Uachtaráin, iar oifigighm agus a dhaoine uaisle, tá fáilte romhaibh go léir chuig Comhdháil Bhliantúil Laighean inniu I Ostan DeFaoite agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh taitneamh as fanacht i Loch Garman.

I would like to thank Wexford County Board for their invitation to hold our convention here this evening …. onwhat is a momentous occasion for the county with Taghmon/Camross clubman Derek Kent taking up the position of Cathaoirleach Comhairle Laighean.

Today, at least, I don’t have to ask all the delegates to put your laptops on ‘mute’ or worry about a dodgy broadband connection, as we meet in person for the first time since 2020.

Three years ago when I stood before you in Birr, I, like everyone else, had no indication of the havoc that was about to envelop us all.  But in true GAA fashion, innovative solutions were found to previously unforeseen challenges.  

For the first two years of my term online communication became our new world, our new way of getting things done – and we did get things done.   We managed to get all our championships played, albeit in sometimes empty or very sparsely populated stadia.

Thankfully 2022 saw a return to hurling and Football as we know it – the new normal thankfully disappeared and gave way to our old normal.  And I want to congratulate the winners of all of our various Championships and Competitions.

Congratulations to our representatives who won All-Ireland titles in 2022 ….. Kilkenny in U20 hurling and Junior Football, Naas in Intermediate Club Hurling, Mooncoin in Junior Club Hurling, Kildare with the Christy Ring Cup, Louth the Lory Meagher Cup, and of course Westmeath winners of the inaugural Tailteann Cup.  

While Kilkenny in Senior Hurling, Kildare in U20 Football, Offaly in Minor Hurling, Ballyhale Shamrocks in Senior Club Hurling, Trim in Intermediate Club Football and Longford in the Lory Meagher Cup all lost out at the final stage, they were worthy representatives of the Province.

 

Of course 2022 was the first full year in which the split season was in operation.  While it is too early to declare emphatically as to its success or otherwise, I believe it has given stability to our games programme and certainty to our club players with regard to when they are going to play Championship.  

 

Of course there are also perceived shortcomings with the inter county season finishing early often mentioned.  

However, the club and its players are at the core of our Association and that must always be the starting point.  So while future versions may well see minor tweaks to time frames and other slight adjustments, the split season will, in my opinion, prove to be one of the Association’s greatest decisions.

 

Unfortunately the development of infrastructure has been mostly stagnant in recent times …. again a victim of the dreaded pandemic.  However, many counties and clubs spent the time wisely …. Working diligently in the background …. preparing, planning and progressing projects and are now eagerly awaiting their commencement.  

There are a number of large scale projects which are of great significance to the Province and in this regard I hope we see substantial progress in the re-development of St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge and Navan’s Pairc Tailteann as well as the development of new county grounds in Louth during 2023.  

Other projects in the pipeline include the upgrade of Cusack Park in Mullingar, further development at Fenagh training centre in Carlow, and advancement of the Dublin training facility at Hollystown.   The coming years will hopefully see progress on further training centres in Longford and Westmeath.  More locally, I am delighted that next weekend we will see the official turning on of the floodlights in Wexford Park ….. which will be a hugely welcome addition to the floodlit facilities in the Province.

The crucial challenge for counties will be the efficient management of these projects and ensuring that they are delivered within budget.  It is important therefore that both Provincial and Central Councils support and work with therelevant counties to ensure that this critical infrastructure can be delivered in the most economically advantageous and timely manner.  Delays will have only one outcome … increased costs, as building construction inflation, pushes up prices and makes them financially prohibitive.  

Late 2022 also saw the return of club grants and I would like to acknowledge the funding that we received from Croke Parkin this regard.

 

One of my goals when I took office was to increase the number of Games Promotion Officers, outside of Dublin and The East Leinster project. While our old friend Covid again delayed progress in this regard, I’m delighted that we more than doubled the number of G.P.O.’s across Laois, Offaly, Kilkenny, Longford, Carlow and Westmeath. ….. from 24 to 51 in the past 15 months.  

The increase in numbers will add greatly to the marvellous work already being done by volunteers in our clubs and schools. I want to thank all of our Coaching and Games staff in the Province, under the excellent leadership of our Games Managers, Alan Mulhall and James Devane. Their work in the promotion and development of Gaelic Games across our clubs and counties is hugely valuable as we seek to increase participation levels and standards.  What is sometimes overlooked too is the hugely meaningful employment that our coaching structure provides for young people throughout the Province.

Leinster Coaching & Games will continue to work with the National Games Development Committee to facilitate change and enhance and improve games development right across the Province.

In 2016 the Leinster u13 & u15 club hurling and football leagues were introduced with the purposed of extending the games programme to provide more variety in competitions and opposition for clubs. After 3 very successful years with over 250 teams entering each year, the pandemic unfortunately prevented travel across the province.

However, these competitions demonstrated the appetite for games in the early part of the year among clubs. Having witnessed this, the majority of counties have now extended their games programme to such an extent that for 2023 Leinster C & G have decided to pause these competitions.  They will instead monitor and assess the provision of games in these age groups, in the counties and determine the future requirements

Meanwhile the successful adult hurling leagues will continue and expressions of interest have been sought from clubs todetermine if there is a requirement for a similar football league.

 

The coverage we are getting on the various social media platforms continues to grow …. thanks to the work of John Haughney and Pat Lynagh.

Just last week Leinster GAA and Clubber TV announced the first media rights deal in Leinster GAA history – which saw the live and exclusive broadcast of all Walsh Cup and O’Byrne Cup games.  This is a ground-breaking partnership. It enables us to give people access to games they may not otherwise see and also guarantees a consistent level of production across all Leinster GAA games.  I hope the walk overs conceded by counties in recent days, in the O’Byrne Cup, will not adversely affect any future relationship with Clubber TV.

I would like to thank our outgoing PRO Pat Lynagh for all his tireless work over the past three years. I would also like to wish our incoming PRO, Brendan Minnock, every success as he continues to raise the profile of Leinster GAA in the coming years.  

 

There is no doubt that the organisation’s finances heavily impacted as traditional income streams were badly hampered for a considerable timeframe.  However thanks to the astute and prudent management of our operation, we have been able to maintain all services at the same level and in some cases, even improve them.

I would like to thank Colm Finnegan, the Finance Committee and John Browne for keeping us in such rude financial health despite the difficulties.  Sincere thanks to Colm for his work in the role of Treasurer …. and I wish Ed Byrne the very best as he takes over.

 

Firstly, I wish to thank Pat Lynagh, John Bannon and our referee’s appointments committee for their commitment and dedication to the support of our referees.  The appointment of officials is not an easy task with the availability of so many excellent referees, but they carry out their duties in a very fair manner, and I commend them for this.  

Thanks to Martin Whyte, John Bannon and all the referee administrators across the Province for the recruitment and training of our match officials.  I honestly believe that Leinster referees are the envy of the other provinces.

I also won’t try to ignore the fact that this has been a difficult year for the GAA …. caused by the flash points and indiscipline of some people at our games.  If ever the GAA should be judged on what we do rather than what we say, then it is on the issue of respect not just for referees and match officials ….. but for players, team management and supporters.

One unacceptable incident will always be one too many.  But I do think that the overwhelming reaction of embarrassment and disgust among the majority of GAA members to the high-profile incidents of indiscipline is proof that we can tackle the culture change that is required.  

It would be infinitely better if there were NO incidents to be embarrassed or disgusted about!

We must practice what we preach in the area of Give Respect, Get Respect … and it is essential that we have the courage of our convictions to ensure that this happens.  

Respect must be the abiding theme – always. For everyone.  

I wish to thank our Competitions Control Committee and our Hearings Committee for the fair manner in which they deliberated and adjudicated on cases during the year.  It is not always an easy task but their work is very much appreciated.

Among the key values of the GAA is that we are a volunteer-led and democratic organisation, which flourishes through the voluntary efforts of our membership.

Nowhere is the effort greater than among County Board officers …. many of whom face ever-increasing demands on their free time.  

It is a concern that some counties are finding it increasinglydifficult to attract volunteers to fill key positions and I do accept that the GAA must ensure that the burden on officersessential volunteers, such as yourselves – does not become too arduous.  In the past I always felt such effort by many was a labour of love …. we must not let it become a labour of loathing.

This has already been recognised by Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan in a recent report to Congress and is an area I feel the Association needs to focus on more closely in the coming time.   

Last year I highlighted my concerns over the increased use of so called recreational drugs in society and how this was affecting and likely to affect our Association in the future.  I spoke about how we might create an awareness among our members of the dangers of this culture and its serious repercussions … both personally and for the wider community.  Unfortunately I am of the view that things have not improved in the short term ….

But I am delighted that shortly we will have Addictions Counsellor and Psychotherapist, Ciarán Carey address Convention on this subject.  We all need to be aware of the insidious nature of these drugs and their lasting damage.

 

I am pleased to welcome John Murphy, Chairperson of Gaelic Games Europe here today. Last year saw Europe send a hurling team to join their football counterparts in competing in the Leinster Junior Club Championship.   Amsterdam, who were the European representatives in both codes, suffered narrow defeats to Wicklow opposition on the double ….. but the success of these games ensures a worthy place for the European champions into the future.  

The GAA family overseas has proven a great help to emigrants when they first arrive on foreign shores. Increasingly too our overseas units are experiencing local membership – people who want to enjoy playing our games.  

The work done in promoting our games in Europe, The Middle East and Australasia is to be commended. We will continue to support this work in whatever way we can.

 

I wish to thank Catherine Daly and Áine Kennedy and the Scór Committee for the tremendous work they do in the promotion of our cultural activities.  

The culmination of their work and those promoting Scór across the Province saw All-Ireland titles come to Leinster in both Scór Na nÓg and adult Scór.  Congratulations to all involved.

 

I must commend the great work being undertaken by the Health & Wellbeing and Games for All Committees under the direction of John McCarthy, Brian Carberry and Pat Lynagh respectively.

I had the pleasure this year of attending the Wheelchair hurling in Tullamore and to say it wasn’t for the faint hearted would be understatement as the competitive nature of the game reached high intensity at times.  

Today is a very special day for our Vice-Chairperson Derek Kent, his wife Lorena, son Tony and daughter Clodagh, as well as his parents Bridget and Pat. It is also a special occasion for Derek’s club Tagmon/Camross and for the county of Wexford.

Derek has given long service to Leinster Council acrossnumerous areas but in particular Infrastructure, and Coaching and Games. I have worked with Derek as a fellow officer for the last three years and found him to be both loyal and supportive … and always with the best interests of Leinster GAA at heart.

There is a great sense of pride here in Wexford and that is only right …. as a proud GAA county welcomes one of their own as Cathaoirleach, Comhairle Laighean.

Derek, I know that you will make a great Chairperson and Leinster’s affairs are in good hands.  I wish you the best of luck.  I would also like to wish Laois’ Martin Byrne every success as he follows Derek’s footsteps in the role of Vice Chairperson.

 

During 2022 we lost a great servant to Westmeath and Leinster GAA with the passing of Paddy Flanagan and you can read a fitting tribute to Paddy in your Convention book. In his roles as PRO and Treasurer of Leinster GAA, I had the pleasure of knowing Paddy for over 30 years …. And working closely with him on the compilation of Leinster Championship programmes.  

He was a constant at the Leinster Convention and always ensured the organisation and preparation of this Annual event was to the highest standards.  To Paddy’s family …. and the families of all those who lost loved ones during the past year we extend our deepest sympathy.

 

The continued hard work, loyalty and efforts of our staff in Áras Laighean, under the expert guidance of CEO Michael Reynolds is …. as always … greatly appreciated. The benefit of their experience and advice has always been a great help to both the clubs and counties within the province.

To Michael, the two John’s, Alan, James, Julie, Patricia, Hannah, Tadgh and Noel ….. your help, support and loyalty in no small way ensured my time as Cathaoirleach was a most enjoyable one – and something I will always be thankful for.  

During the year we saw the departure of our Learning and Development Manager Colm Clear, as he took up a new role in Carlow IT.  Colm has been a tremendous asset to all our units in the area of course development and delivery and will be greatly missed.  We thank him for his valued contribution and wish him every success in his new role.  

Jamie Queeney will take up the role of Learning and Development Manager and we warmly welcome him on board.  We also welcome Aideen Howlin who has taken on the duties of Regional Community & Health Co-ordinator

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to thank the members of our sub committees for their work throughout the year.  

To my Management Committee and county delegates for your support and advice thank you…… Our meetings have always been open and frank and I feel this has contributed greatly to healthy and informed decision making.

To my fellow officers over the past three years …….. Derek, Pat and Colm a sincere thank you for your support and commitment throughout my time as Chairperson.

So today brings an end to my term …  and I can honestly say it has been a very enjoyable and satisfying experience. Both I,and my wife Frances, are extremely grateful for the welcome and courtesy shown to us as we attended functions and matches … in every county.

It was humbling to serve as Chairperson.

And please forgive me for straying from the values of impartiality for just one moment as I confess to an extra sense of pride I felt presenting Leinster Cups to captains from the Faithful County in 2021 and 2022!

I think it is incumbent on all of us, in whatever role we serve, to leave the Association in a better place than we found it.   I hope I did that.

The early part of my tenure was tough – tough for our members, tough for our communities, tough for our country.

But our Association did what we always do.  We laughed in the face of adversity, we rolled up our sleeves and we delivered for our people.

It opened my eyes yet again to the truly great family that we are part of ….. in Cumann Luthchleas Gael.

Go raibh maith agaibh go leir agus ar aghaidh libh le chéile  

Carlow GAA
Dublin GAA
Kildare GAA
Kilkenny GAA
Laois GAA
Longford GAA
Louth GAA
Meath GAA
Offaly GAA
Westmeath GAA
Wexford GAA
Wicklow GAA