A simple effective plan that will deliver results - that is the mission statement laid out by former GAA President Liam O’Neill as he heads up a new initiative to strengthen and develop the GAA in Leitrim at club and county level in order to meet the challenges they face in the years ahead.
Leitrim GAA have thrown their doors open to a group headed by O'Neill to find out what is the current state of the organisation in the county, the challenges both club and county face with the aim of producing practical recommendations for the future health of the GAA.
But the former chairman of the Leinster GAA Council (pictured inset) is quick to stress that this will be no rush job and that his team will take their time to come up with a plan that is simple and effective - however long that takes! “We’ll take whatever length of times it takes to get people’s views, we’re not going to rush this or impose a deadline, we’re going to leave this open.”
Revealing that he and his team are already meeting various sub-groups within the GAA in the County, Liam stressed that the need to consult with everyone is foremost in their minds: “We’d love to have a plan - I dislike the term Strategic Plan but I would love to have a plan that would work rather than a plan that would have people saying that is laid out very well or it is clever. I want a simple working plan for Leitrim.”
With an online survey to be launched for fans, supporters, players and officials and consultations with groups as diverse as referees, hurlers, underage coaches, Liam wants people to think outside the norm: “We are looking for people to come up with new, fresh ideas and harvest the energy that is there.
“I’d love to see fresh ideas and I’d love Leitrim people feeling very happy at the end of this process. The reception we’ve got from people so far is great. There is a lovely friendly atmosphere around Leitrim and I’d love to harness that and give Leitrim a slightly more competitive edge.”
So what exactly is Liam and his team looking for: “We’ve drawn up a questionnaire which has gone out to the clubs to establish where we are in terms of numbers, in term of strengths, in terms of basic facts.
“We’ve also asked them to give their ideas and suggestions on what challenges are facing their clubs, what challenges are facing the county and suggestions of things that haven’t been tried before and might be worth trying.”
Citing the much quoted example of Kilmacud Crokes having more underage players than the entire county of Leitrim, Liam tells people to look on that as a positive: “I keep on telling the Leitrim football people that they mirror Laois hurling. We’re on the wrong end of a bad result every so often and we lost recently 7-31 to 1-19 yet we could turn around and beat Antrim in a crunch game on Sunday. We’re safe now and they’re not, just yet.
“Part of what I’ve been saying is that if there is only 250 boys born in Leitrim every year, that is a huge opportunity. Kilmacud Crokes alone have those numbers and I don’t know how many Kilmacud Crokes type clubs there are in Dublin but Leitrim have the opportunity to get to know everybody and bring them on in a sustained way.”
With meetings taking place over Zoom, Liam and his group have met in the past week with underage coaches, clubs and referees but the former GAA President stresses that his group are fully independent of the County Board and are looking for that little bit extra to help the county.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is that we’re not criticising what has gone on before. In fact there is a very positive attitude to what is going on at the moment but what we want to know is there anything that can give Leitrim that extra 5% they need, just the little edge it needs to be winners regularly.
“The County Board wants to maintain complete neutrality and that is important. We want to hear from people but this will be independent of the County Board. There are no county executive members on the committee and that is the way they wanted it and I am quite happy with that.”
As for his own personal ideas of what he’d like to see happen, Liam would like to see more cooperation between boys and girls football, something he championed while GAA President: “I’d love to see both boys and girls football prosper and it has been suggested already that we could jointly do young people, or at least consider the possibility around cooperation to increase the numbers and to give more variety in what you can do.”
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