Chairman Joe Flynn called on the Football Review Committee to highlight and address imbalances in the Inter-county championship structures at last Sunday’s Leitrim GAA County Board Convention, asking delegates if they could honestly say that the current structures have served Leitrim well.
In a wide-ranging and comprehensive address, Joe touched on many subjects but the most eye-catching was his call for a radical revamp of the Inter-County Championship structures as he highlighted the imbalance in playing and financial resources between counties.
“We must look at the imbalances that exist both in our human and financial resources,” Joe told delegates, “Pats on the back and ‘good performance’ tributes are not what the players or supporters of Leitrim want.
“Will the Football Review Committee be brave enough to highlight these imbalances and if they do will the powers that be be courageous enough to address those issues. The present system of 127 years will not survive unless, as the west of Ireland journalist, John Healy once proclaimed “somebody must call halt”.
“Despite our first ever victory in the Qualifier Series, does it serve any purpose for Division 4 teams? It only gives strong teams a second opportunity. Can we honestly say that the Connacht Championship in its present format is serving Leitrim’s best interest? Can two senior titles in 127 years convince anybody of that fact?
“Maybe we are all too entrenched in tradition to realise that the structures of today does not adequately cater for a fast changing world that will continue to change at an even faster rate with the advent of even greater technology that twenty years ago was unimaginable.”
The Chairman may have appealed for a more equitable structure for inter-county structure but it hasn’t lessened his ambitions as Joe baldly stated that promotion from Division 4 is a must in 2013 and a Connacht Final appearance into the bargain - “In looking at the half full glass I take courage from a first round qualifier win in 11 years to going forward with a settled team of management and players who have jelled well together.
“In our forthcoming seven national football league games we host four at home – that is a definite advantage- and while standards have greatly levelled off, promotion from Division 4 is a must if I am still to look at the half full glass.
“We start our championship campaign of 2013 with a trip to the Big Apple in May and while the economic scene is very challenging we will be hoping that a good following of our supporters will see us advance to a tussle with Sligo in Páirc Mac Diarmada on June 23. Let’s tempt fate with a Connacht Final appearance in July.”
Looking back on Leitrim’s year, Joe said “The year 2012 can be viewed from many perspectives—the glass maybe viewed as half full or half empty depending on how you wish to see it” but stated that the victory over Wicklow had lifted the entire county.
“The media had indeed highlighted Leitrim’s failure to have ever won a game in the “backdoor” system from our original defeat to Antrim in Casement Park in the inaugural year of the Qualifiers in 2001. Could this unwanted record be the catalyst to motivate us for a big game in Carrick on July 12. Playing inspired football for seventy minutes the hoodoo of many years was laid to rest with a famous victory over the Garden County on a score line of Leitrim 0-13, Wicklow 0-10.
“Confidence and pride were restored and we had Laois in our next game with the advantage of a home venue. A wonderful atmosphere prevailed and we were delighted to welcome the newly appointed Úachtaráin CLCG Liam ó Neill to Carrick-on-Shannon to support his native county.
“Leitrim almost caused a second shock within the week and were unlucky to be on the wrong of a 1-13 to 1-11 score line. Our Connacht victors Mayo reached the All Ireland final and Laois were most unlucky not to overcome, at that stage, All Ireland champions, and favourites Dublin for 2012. We were participating in good company.”
The Chairman also promised that the Board would be issuing a set of guidelines regarding fixtures and asked that clubs consider playing games on weekdays or without county players to ease fixture congestion.
“We too remained active for longer at inter county level by our success in the qualifiers, while the replay of the Hurling Final resulted in the loss of our declared County Final date. All of these factors impinged on our ability to maintain agreed dates resulting in lesser weekends available to complete League fixtures earlier.
“This situation will continue while clubs refuse to play any League games without County panellists. Our national CCC must take cognisance of county club fixtures in the event of replays. Having reviewed our activities for the year it is our intention to issue strict guidelines to all clubs in such areas as special requests, postponements, failing to fulfil a fixture, rearrangement of fixtures without the permission of CCC and all other relevant issues to streamline our activities.
“The demands on our county players to be available for all club fixtures is unreasonable and this with the possibility of playing some League games on a weekday must be considered if some of the motions on the clár today are to be debated.”
On the subject of development, Joe regretted the delay in completing the Centre of Excellence in Annaduff but hopes that it will be operational early in the new year - “I regret that despite expectations our Centre of Excellence is not yet completed. This is indeed something completely outside our control since the project was subject to revised planning regulations when we were required to seek planning retention.
“We are now making excellent progress on fitting out the building and we will have a state of the art facility, the envy of many bigger counties at our disposal, early in the new year.”
However, Joe admitted that the current financial woes besetting the country had made life difficult for Leitrim GAA - “The present national financial crisis does not seem to have abated over the past year and will once again prove a major challenge to the board. The increased commitment to the welfare of our players is the most demanding drain on our limited finances.
“We have an obligation to prepare in a professional manner and in doing so we must provide such resources as is deemed necessary but within reason. Our management teams are aware of our limited ability to provide for such resources and co-operate with us in many ways by their own ingenuity and improvisation.
“Indeed our senior team ran two excellent and enjoyable fundraising functions, namely a table quiz and a fashion show. They are to be commended on these initiatives. We are pleased to relay to convention today that the board have again ran the affairs, without any diminution of services, with an excess of income over expenditure.”