Connacht Convention took place at the Bush Hotel, Ck-on-Shannon, last night and it was a very proud night for Cloone man, Gerry McGovern, as he took over from Roscommon’s Mick Rock as Uachtarán Comhairle Connacht. In doing so he is following in the footsteps of Ballinamore’s Michael McIntyre, Fenagh’s Dick Ellis, Melvin Gaels’ Aiden McGowan, St Mary’s George O Toole and Ballinamore’s Tommy Moran in this esteemed position.
Gerry has been to the forefront of all that is good in the GAA over many years now, starting with his club Club in the early 1970s and continuing over the ensuing decades with both club and county. A prominent member of the Cloone SFC winning team of 1980, Gerry has served his club in many roles since. A former member of the National Referees Panel, Gerry moved into county administration and ultimately served as County Chairman 2005-2009, a period a great development in Leitrim GAA with the development of the new stand in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada and the early stages of the County Training Centre Development in Annaduff. Gerry was at the forefront of these initiatives and this will serve as a fine legacy to Leitrim GAA.
With the conclusion of his term as Cathaoirleach, he became a delegate to Comhairle Connacht in 2010 and has served his term well, the last three years as Leas Uachtarán Comhairle. To borrow his own words from last night’s acceptance speech, he has served a 47-year apprenticeship and Comhairle Connacht will be the undoubted beneficiary of this wisdom and administrative ability over the next three years. All in Leitrim GAA wish Gerry the very best over his term and in doing so, we also wish to acknowledge the excellent contribution of his immediate predecessor Mick Rock as he steps away from the role.
In his inaugural address to Comhairle Connacht Gerry addressed a number of issues for the Association outlined in extracts from his speech below:
Tonight ladies and gentlemen it is a huge honour for me to accept the position of Uachtarán Comhairle Connacht for the next three years. It is a huge honour for me, my family, my club Cloone, and my native County Leitrim.
Mick Rock Outgoing President – Unfortunately for me, I have the unenviable job of following in the footsteps of one of the greatest and most experienced Gaa administrators, and one of the finest orators within the GAA, and while I can never expect to match his ability in these areas, I can only match it with honest endeavour.
We have been fortunate for the last three years to have a man of the calibre of Mick Rock as President of Comhairle Chonnacht. Mick has led GAA affairs in the province to the highest standards and has represented the Province at Ard Comhairle and Coiste Bainistí with distinction. He has earned for himself a reputation as someone we will be hearing more about in the highest echelons in GAA administration in the future. Thanks Mick for being an outstanding President.
Acknowledgement – Tonight as I Accept this wonderful honour, I pay tribute the men from Leitrim who have held this honour, and respect the great work that they have done in the past, namely, the late Michael McIntyre, the late Dick Ellis, the late Aidan McGowan, the late George O Toole and most recently the outstanding Tommy Moran.
I’m delighted to be taking office at a time when Gaelic Games are at a high in the province. Galway are All Ireland Hurling Champions, Mayo within one point of winning the Football All Ireland, Roscommon are Connacht Champions, and Gaa development is at a high standard in Leitrim and Sligo, and Leitrim’s appearance in the Lory Meagher Final in Croke Park a notable highlight.
Centre of Excellence – I’m delighted to be taking on the role of president in a Province that is so well equipped and has the finest Centre of Excellence in the Country. This is a Centre of Excellence that can boast of the finest facilities in Ireland. The number of initiatives that are being promoted in the Centre is phenomenal with over 50,000 people using the Centre in 2017. This is an outstanding facility and I urge all counties to avail of the facilities for the good of their clubs and counties. The list of activities is listed in your Convention Book, and we look forward to further developments at the Centre in the near future. I pay tribute to the work of Cathal Cregg, and Seamus Burns and all the staff at the Centre for the outstanding work they are doing.
John Tobin – Tonight it is very important that we recognise the enormous amount of outstanding work done by John Tobin in the establishment of the Centre of Excellence, and his guidance and expertise in the provision of the excellent Coaching and Games Development Programmes channelled through the Centre. All Counties have benefited from John’s outstanding work. Happy retirement John.
Árd Stiurthóir – I also want to recognise the enormous Contribution made by retiring ARD STUIRTHÓIR Paraic Duffy and to thank him for his excellent leadership of the Association over the last number of years. I wish Paraic a happy retirement.
Next 3 Years – For the next three years I intend to focus on Club and County Development. I believe Clubs are being neglected and more assistance is needed. As I take on the role I fully realise the many Challenges that face the organisation in the immediate future. Looking at the GAA right now, and from the outside we see the organisation thriving in a most glamorous way. We see The International rules Competition, The All-star banquets, The All-star tours, The Fenway Games, The sky deals, The super 8’s, Packed houses for our All Ireland finals. Sure we are flying. I applaud all of this and it is great the association is going so well. However, I have a concern for the organisation at the other end, at the grassroots level.
The Club – I don’t want to be seen as another official paying verbal platitudes to the Club, but I’m concerned that we are losing units of the association as clubs struggle to survive or are facing amalgamation with some going out of existence. The club means so much to every member of the GAA in the community. Everybody has an affinity with the club, as is evident from the youngest child to the club veteran wearing and supporting their club jersey, the club colours. It is a sad day in any county if we lose a unit of the association. Tonight I’m asking County Boards to work closely with clubs that are finding it difficult and I have no doubt provincial Council can help.
How can we help? How can Provincial Council help?
- We must provide assistance in the provision of club plans. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
- Clubs must provide Team Management from within the club, for all their teams and cut the enormous cost of hiring outside team managers some with very little qualifications. This financial burden cannot be maintained and unfortunately, it’s the dedicated club members out on Saturday nights selling lotto tickets to pay the cost.
- In order that Clubs can do this, we have to encourage clubs to utilise the Coaching and Games Development Programmes that are presently being rolled out by the Coaching Staff at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan to upskill members of the club who can well perform the management duties in their clubs at a lot less cost.
- Connacht GAA can provide the highest quality training in the areas of Coaching, Strength and Conditioning, Sports Science, etc. and I urge Clubs to avail of this service and save hard earned money.
- For Clubs, we must continue to lobby for more funding to be made available for club development. I believe Grant percentages must be increased for the various aspects of GAA club developments to encourage club development,
- We must continue to lobby for European funding through Leader and County Development Companies to be made available directly to GAA clubs for all Club developments, and GAA clubs must be recognised as leading community groups. We must continue to lobby for this funding to be made available to GAA Clubs.
County Committees – The business of County boards has changed dramatically in the last number of years and further change is on the way. County Board officers are under huge pressure and this will increase. Look at how the County Board Budgets have increased in the last number of years and this is indicative of the enormous change that has taken place. In order to face the challenges, County Boards must be structured in a way that every elected official has a specific duty to perform and is answerable to the County executive. Training and support systems must be available to assist our officers in carrying out their duties. County Boards must embrace the ethos of planning, and every county must prepare their own relevant strategic plan.
County Teams – The present level of expenditure on County Team preparation cannot continue and while I fully appreciate that County Boards are making genuine efforts to reduce expenditure, but we cannot continue to spend at this level. Counties must take immediate further measures to curb spending. Are we overexposing our players to extensively rigorous training regimes in pursuit of results, we probably are never going to achieve, and in the process are we turning our top quality players away from inter-County Football. Intercounty players are now beginning to highlight this. Do we need to be training five nights a week in November, December January, preparing for our most important competition that commences in May/June? These questions need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Tiered Championship – For some counties, I believe it is time to grasp the nettle, have a robust discussion in relation to their participating in a form of a tiered championship, following their exit from the Provincial Championship. This would give teams from the less successful counties the opportunity to compete at their own level, play matches in Croke Park, and get a promotion to the next grade. In doing this, counties will reduce the training burden on county players, and the financial burden on boards. How long can we persist with the present system which has brought heartbreak in the qualifiers, year in year out?
Pillars – To the existing pillars of authority with the Provincial Council, I believe we need to add a new PILLAR under the heading of Governance, with responsibility for CLUB and COUNTY DEVELOPMENT. As a Provincial Council, we need to work with County Boards in providing information to Counties and clubs on a range of issues. I propose that as a Council we will meet the five County Development officers in the very near future, and following that I propose to have an information Seminar in each county at which every club must be represented. We are very fortunate to have personnel with the Provincial Council, in our Provincial Council Secretary John Prenty, and Development Manager Adrian Hassett who have a wealth of expertise in these areas, and who, with other qualified personnel will deliver the various seminars.
Referees – While a serious amount of excellent work has been done in the province in relation to refereeing standards. Standards were never higher, and now we have more referees on the National Panel than ever before. This is a tribute to the outstanding work of our referee’s County coordinator Sean Martin. However, I was disappointed to hear in reports from County Conventions about the abuse of referees and the resultant shortage of referees. I would ask Counties that when are highlighting the problem in relation to referees, we would not highlight the abuse because highlight the abuse will only turn prospective candidates away. Referees must report the abuse and County Boards must penalise the culprits.
New System – I hope to introduce a new system whereby the Provincial Council will have direct responsibility for training and all matters pertaining to refereeing standards in each County where refereeing personnel in each county would be directly responsible to the Provincial Council.
Hurling – I look forward to working with the hurling boards in each county and to continue to support the great work they are doing. I trust their knowledge and experience in promoting the game and to assure you of my full support for their work.
Handball – The great work of the handball boards has also to be recognised and while I don’t propose to advise you on how to develop the game I can assure of my total support in your endeavours.
Scór – Scór has been my baby for the last three years. We were asked to increase our participation in Scór and to increase the enjoyment of the participants. We had three very good years, and I’m glad to say that our efforts in Connacht have been very successful, a fact that was recognised by Coiste Bainistí and Ard Comhairle. I sincerely thank Coiste Scór Chonnacht members for their assistance and cooperation with me for the last three years, and in particular to our excellent Runai Aodáin O Braonáin. It has been a most enjoyable journey. We look forward to hosting the All Irelands of Scór na nÓg and Scór Sínsir in Sligo later in the year and to recognise the great work being done by Coiste Scór Sligeach. I wish the new Coiste Scór Chonnacht, under the direction of John Murphy, the very best.
Other Initiatives – There are a number of very important initiatives that are being promoted under the auspices of Comhairle Chonnacht. I pay tribute to the great work being done by our ‘Games for all Committee’, ‘Health and well being’, and all the other various initiatives.
School Bodies – I salute the enormous work of the people who are promoting GAA activities within all our schools. It is a serious piece of work on a weekly basis and their dedication and commitment have to be recognised and admired. You can be assured of my total support in the great work you are doing.
County Committees – I look forward to working with the five Co Boards, and being of assistance to them in the many challenges that the face in promoting Gaelic games in their counties, and hopefully by working together we can make your work less stressful, more efficient, and most importantly, more enjoyable. Likewise, I look forward to working with all the Delegates to the Council, the representatives of the various sporting bodies that make up the Council.
Officers – The province of Connacht is very fortunate to have a man of the calibre of John Prenty as Runai Comhairle Chonnacht. With his vast accumulation of knowledge and experience in the administration of GAA affairs, John is a guiding light to County officers on all Gaa maters. I look forward to working with him in the administration of GAA affairs in the province. I look forward to working with all the staff at the Connacht Centre of Excellence in Bekan. Likewise, I look forward to working with the others members of the Management Committee, PRO John Hopkins, and Treasurer Mattie Kilroy. We joined the Council together, the class of 2010, it was like the first day at primary school. We spent five years on the CCC and performed the duties of field officers even to international standards.
All my GAA life I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by great people, whether in the administration of GAA Affairs at club, County or provincial, acting as umpires for me, or whatever GAA task I was doing, and tonight I want to acknowledge their help, assistance and great support over many years.
I want to also acknowledge the support I have received from my family for my involvement in GAA Affairs. Without their support and encouragement, I couldn’t do it.
I can assure you that I will give my absolute and total effort to carrying my duties of Uachtaráin Comhairle Chonnacht to the best of my ability.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.