With the entire country seemingly preoccupied by budgets, euro-zones, debt forgiveness and the entire economic woes, it was no surprise that Leitrim GAA County Board Chairman Joe Flynn should open his address to Convention last Sunday in the Bush Hotel by predicting that the Association, at club, county and national level, faces huge challenges in the years ahead.
Yet despite the economic gloom, Joe believes that the Association have the resilience to overcome the challenge and continue to work for the betterment of the country.
Opening his address, Joe said “The past year has been most difficult with a continuous brainstorming of depressing news—job losses, emigration, pay cuts and the possible demise of our euro making daily headlines. The GAA is not immune to any of the aforementioned and is suffering with all other institutions of the state.
“The upsurge of new clubs throughout the world is testament to the huge exodus of talented young men and women that are leaving our shore. There is no sign of any improvement as we gather for our annual convention. We all face huge challenges of survival, at both club and county level.
“However, our organisation is most resilient, and survived similar challenges over the past 127 years. We must address these challenges and working closely together hopefully we can advance the ideals of the GAA further for the coming year for the betterment of our county and our people.”
And to put his own words in action, Joe pointed to the expected completion of the GAA Centre of Excellence in Annaduff during 2012 with the facility, which will cater for football, hurling and handball, due to open its doors in September 2012 - “The past year sees the dream of a centre of excellence move towards a reality with both playing pitches completed, training ground ready and the building now there with fitting out to be undertaken during the coming year.
“The work so far is of the highest standard and the completed project will be a tremendous asset to the foot balling Hurling and handball fraternity of Leitrim GAA. It is proposed to have the entire project up and running by September 2012.”
Of course, finance remains a pressing concern and Joe, in his speech, did warm that if income from sponsorship and the Leitrim Supporters Club drops, there would have to be a corresponding drop in expenditure and that the Board would have to complete the project in Annaduff out of their own resources - “The increased commitment to the welfare of our players results in a greater financial expenditure in preparing our teams. This expenditure is by far the greatest drain on our limited finances.
“I am glad to relay to convention today that by prudent financial management of our affairs we have shown a surplus of income over expenditure without reducing services. We must continue to show such a surplus to allow for developments in capital areas. We are indebted to Croke Park for the financial contributions that have allowed us to finance our development at Annaduff so far. It will be necessary for the board to have its own resources to complete this project.
“We are deeply indebted to our Dublin Committees who have spear headed fund raising activities for the Leitrim Supporters Club and the Dublin Golf Classic under the chairpersons of Eamonn Duignan and Barry Donnellan respectively. Both fund raising events are critical to the survival of Leitrim GAA.
“Despite the national financial crisis, the Supporters Club shows an increased income this year. The concept of each club being assigned a specific number of tickets to sell avoids placing levies to finance major projects. Should there be a drop in income, it must be matched by a corresponding drop in expenditure,” warned Joe.
However, Joe did pose a question about inequality in the GAA as he pointed out that the Dublin County Board had recently signed a massive sponsorship deal - “The recent revelation that Dublin had acquired 1 million euro sponsorship per annum plus other endorsements of appearance money begs the question of equality.
“They (Dublin) too have 1.3 million people to help them out in their hour of need. They also expect to win the Sam Maguire Cup every three years and we participate in the same competition. If I were to make the same prediction today, I believe Diarmuid would be in contact with the HSE to have me collected at the door after convention.”
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.