02 Jul 2022

Stenson raises issues of rural depopulation and warns “huge problem” is coming

Full text of Leitrim GAA County Board Chairman's address to 2020 Convention

Stenson raises issues of rural depopulation and warns “huge problem” is coming

Leitrim GAA County Board Chairman Enda Stenson pictured with Roscommon's Sean Mullaney at this year's Connacht SFC clash against Mayo in Carrick-on-Shannon Picture: Willie Donnellan

A dhaoine uaisle, members of Leitrim GAA, it’s my great pleasure, and indeed honour to address at our annual Convention tonight.

Since my election as Chairperson of Leitrim GAA in December 2019, just 12 months ago, our daily lives, as well as our sporting lives have literally being turned upside down – but thankfully, here in Leitrim we have not borne the full horror as has happened in the other parts of the county, as Covid 19 infection incidents and death rates have remained relatively low in comparison to our neighbouring counties.

We, as Leitrim GAA, have hopefully played our part in doing everything possible in protecting our members and their families from this killer virus. Such efforts included closing our grounds to spectators and the genuine concession of our National Football League game to Down; due to a number of our squad testing positive for the virus.

This mutual decision of players and management was fully backed by the County Board Executive.

In truth, these decisions did not meet full approval on a national level, nor amongst some supporters here at home, but I wish to reinforce that as chairperson of Leitrim GAA and the people who work along with me, I will always endeavour to ensure the health and safety of our players precedes everything else.

I want to sincerely thank the Executive of the County Board for their tireless work and support on these matters.

On behalf of all Leitrim people, I say a huge thank you, to all our club volunteers who put their shoulder to the wheel and looked after our Overs 70s, and were not found wanting, and looked after their neighbours and everyone in need, as the Pandemic struck our country

On the playing field, our senior hurlers did exceptionally well to return their Nicky Rackard Cup status and while it was disappointing that our senior footballers returned to Division 4, their championship performance again showed us that they have huge potential going forward and I’ve no doubt that going forward, this present group of footballers will do us proud.

A huge thank you to our Minor footballers for the display they put up against Galway last Saturday for 45, 50 minutes. I don’t know what it is against the bigger teams like Mayo or Galway, whether it is fear of winning or what, but in these two games, they did us proud

I want to thank Olcan Conway, Terry Hyland and Brendan Guckian and every one of their management teams for their hard work to make Leitrim hurlers and footballers great.

I want to thank our Coaching committee for the work they do on the ground, Thomas Keenan and his GDAs.

On the club scene, our leagues fell victim to the initial Covid 19 lockdown, but when the opening came and championships were allowed to take place, our clubs and their players did themselves proud, and gave us one of our finest championships in years.

It was disappointing that the intermediate and junior finals could not take place before the most recent lockdown was enforced. I know one more week would have seen us through.

Rural clubs and the decline of rural areas is going to become a huge problem, it is more than a football area. The almost ban on houses in rural areas means we will not have young people growing in up an area like Effernagh or Aughnasheelin or many other small communities.

A huge problem that is going to raise its head and politically it is something we have to work on, 87% of our ground in Leitrim cannot be built on.

One of the highlights of this year’s club championships was the live streaming of our games, and right across the globe, Leitrim club football beamed in every house from Australia to New York and brought joy to Leitrim people everywhere and I want to pay a huge tribute to the people who made it all possible. My heartfelt thanks goes to all who made this possible.

I wish to acknowledge the wonderful work of our Supporters Club, both here in Leitrim, particularly our clubs, and the members of the Dublin Branch for the efforts made this year in difficult circumstances to make the draw such a success.

Ye great people do our County proud year in year out, the GAA family in Leitrim are and will be forever indebted to you all.

This year the Dublin Branch celebrates 35 years in existence and I know that they have had meetings and they have plans underway to mark this milestone, with extra prizes etc. Thanks to you all.

Finally looking forward to 2021, we have no idea what the year ahead promises, no idea at all. Hopefully the arrival of the vaccine will bring some semblance of normality to our lives, both sporting and otherwise, and the virtual meetings will soon be a memory. I’m almost Zoomed out at this stage.

To everyone who has helped me throughout my year as Chairperson, every other officer

I’d have put my two feet and hands in it as well. All in the Leitrim Observer, also Shannonside Radio and Ocean FM, but in particular my family, and the other Board Officers, who kept me on the straight and narrow.

I want to thank my own family and everybody else who has kept me on the straight and narrow.

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