John Jackson, Treasurer, Sean O’Regan, Vice Chairman, Paddy Joe Ryan, Chairman and Pat Flynn, Secretary prior to the start of the Waterford Co. GAA Convention 2017 in Lawlors Hotel, Dungarvan. Photo: Sean Byrne.
Chairman Paddy Joe Ryan delivered a wide ranging address to County Convention in which he covered all aspects of Board activity throughout the year in congratulating successes on and off the field and thanking all of the various groups, sub committees, referees, sponsors and especially his fellow officers for their efforts in what was a great year that saw the County back in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final after fifty four years. He paid wholesome tributes to all, players and management for their achievements and singled out the win over Kilkenny in the championship and the All Ireland semi-final win over Cork as being the highlights. He made special mention of all who contributed to the fundraising effort leading up to the All Ireland and particularly Club Deise for their tremendous contribution.
He also acknowledged the work being done by Tom McGlinchey and his backroom team noting the memorable performance against Cork in the championship that just came up short and urged the clubs to row in behind the football management on a united front in the coming year.
He did not shy away from the serious challenges, as he saw them, facing the Board and made his opinions very clear.
‘MY MOST CHALLENGING YEAR’
On the matter of redeveloping the County Grounds he told the meeting that the Board have been in discussion with GAA officials for over two years and they have made it clear that Walsh Park is the only venue they wish to pursue regarding upgrading due to its central location and accessibility. ”It is important for people to bear in mind that all major County Grounds including Croke Park, Thurles, Limerick, Killarney, Salthill and many others are located in cities or towns in the middle of residential areas.” He goes on to say that the Board will be working with Waterford County and City Council as well as area residents in pursuit of a satisfactory outcome for all.
The Chairman informed the meeting that he was addressing Convention for the 13th time as chairman and that “without doubt, the past year has proven to be my most challenging”. He stressed that where he is concerned there is no hidden agenda or personal cause to pursue and though sometimes tough and unpopular decisions have to be made the clubs, players(club and county) and the real GAA people of Waterford are always to the forefront of his mind.
On Finance the chairman pointed out that three years ago the County Board debt stood at €700,000 and has now been eliminated thanks to the clubs and other fundraising initiatives and he was determined that the board will not find itself back in that position.
In addressing the club situation in Waterford where the ‘hectic schedule’ to complete the senior championships by the end of the year was concerned he apologised to the clubs for the delays and said that the Board and CCC did their best in the circumstances that were dictated to them without saying by whom.
Regarding the Intercounty scene the Chairman made the following observations. “The GAA is an amateur organisation and I am a huge advocate of this ethos, however it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain. We, as a County Board, want to treat our county teams the same as every other county and provide them always with the best possible chance of getting the best out of themselves”.
“However, we as a county simply do not have the means to spend what others do. We need to make budgets on our expected earnings and stick to them or otherwise we will find ourselves back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The GAA cannot talk about its amateur status on one hand while on the other hand knowing what counties are spending on county teams and the drain it is on the finances of county boards all over the country. Maybe it is time for them to level the playing field”.
LEVEL OF VOLUNTEERISM
He expresses concern about the ability of the GAA to sustain the level of volunteerism and its amateur ethos especially where the management of county teams is concerned financially and from a time perspective. The impact of Social Media and the manner in which uninformed criticism of people on twitter or facebook can impact on the families of those involved.
Overall the chairman comes across in his address as a man who recognises the problems facing the Board and is prepared to do what is necessary to deal with them even if it means making difficult decisions.
It is clear that the financing of the county teams and in particular the county senior hurlers is a major undertaking. It is unreasonable to expect a county like Waterford to keep pace with such as Cork , Tipperary and Galway where resources are concerned. Indeed we have only to look at our near Leinster neighbours Wexford who, on a turnover of over €3 million, recorded a surplus of €182K. Secretary Margaret Doyle reported gate receipts from club games coming in at just €474K compared with half that amount for Waterford.
Margaret Doyle concedes that the ‘Davy Factor’ contributed much to the increase in revenues across the Board where fundraising was concerned with the county gaining promotion and reaching the Leinster final and All Ireland quarter finals while pointing out that spend on all county teams came in at just under €1 million, an increase of just over €250K on the previous year.
Such figures show just where it is all at where county teams are concerned and just how hard it would be for Waterford to match other counties from our very limited resources. Paddy Joe is not far out when he suggests that it maybe time for the GAA to level the playing field but that is most unlikely ever to happen given Croke Park’s record in resolving the really difficult issues.