News Eugene McGee

Monday 1 September 2014

Days of paying the club manager are at an end

Published 12/01/2009 | 00:00

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T he AGM of Knocknavanna Gaels was going to be a nervous one for Larry McGann. He had been out of action for most of 2008 because he had to get both hips done following decades of wear and tear.

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It meant that, for the first time in 40 years, Larry was not the main decision-maker in the club -- apart from one season, a couple of years ago, when a few young upstarts had organised a coup late one night in the Eagle Bar and organised enough votes to sensationally oust him from his role as secretary after 22 years.

Larry was worried that being away from the club for several months in the summertime might open the door for another attempt to undermine his position, so he did his homework well in advance. Contacting old contacts he knew from being a County Board delegate for 25 years, he called in a lot of favours with regard to referee appointments, fixtures, etc from other club delegates and managed to get elected as assistant treasurer at the recent county convention.

Having anything to do with money is not a popular chore within county boards these days, so Larry found himself unopposed for his new job.

This was a master stroke because it took the legs from under any Knocknavanna club member who might have been trying to scuttle Larry. After all, Knocknavanna had very few County Board officers over the years and surely nobody would undermine the man now.

Larry made another inspired move by getting the club president, Fr Tommy McGrath, a great GAA man, to change the time of the AGM from Saturday night to 2.30 on Sunday afternoon. That was the traditional time until a crowd of young lads got it altered to Saturday night behind Larry's back.

There's a big difference in the timing factor because Larry knew from experience that most of the younger lads would have been out until all hours on Sunday morning and would be less inclined to attend a three-hour GAA meeting on Sunday afternoon -- especially if going for 'a cure' in the Eagle Bar at 2.0.

And so it proved. Less than 40 turned up at 2.30 when the president welcomed members to the AGM.

Larry, of course, wanted his position of secretary restored, now that he was back to the prime of his health and he had big plans organised for 2009 as he had plenty of time to think things out during his absence.

With the old reliables who always attend club AGMs, mainly colleagues of the junior team that Larry captained to the club's one and only championship in 1969 and their relations, he was relaxed as the acting secretary, who had replaced Larry, read his report.

The numbers looked safe for him. That report did little to damage Larry either as, once again, Knocknavanna failed to get out of their group in the championship.They lost three of their four games, despite the presence of a very famous ex-county player from the neighbouring county.

This lad had been awarded 'expenses' of €100 for every training session and match, as well as the free use of a mobile phone, and was supposed to do the divil and all. He brought in no less than two female physiotherapists and had another of his friends filling out charts during every game.

Larry often saw this lad in action at games and thought he was a reporter for the local paper, but he was told later that, at half-time, he would call out the mistakes that every player had made, how many catches he made (if any) and how many frees he had given away.

It was after he heard this that Larry noticed that the team played worse after half-time in all their games. Some of the lads told him that this was sports psychology and all the teams have it nowadays. Larry didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

If the secretary's report made bad reading, it made treasurer Brian Lenihan's seem positively joyful. The team expenses in 2008 had gone through the roof in Larry's absence and his own calculations indicated that there had been more spent on the team in '08 than in the two previous years put together.

Needless to say, the club was in serious debt, which played right into Larry's hands as over all the years he had prided himself, above all, in having the club in credit every year, mainly by spending hardly anything!

"This is a shocking situation," said Larry, with gravitas. "With the economy gone belly-up and lot of the lads in the parish no longer working on the buildings, we are going to find it very hard to raise money from the weekly Lotto. And it's doubtful if the Eagle Bar or Knocknavanna Construction will be sticking with their sponsorship this year either from what I have been hearing."

This litany of bad news on and off the pitch made the delegates very uneasy and there was very little comment, with the absence of the younger lads being clearly felt. It is in situations like this that Larry is in his element, with his leadership qualities -- also known as cuteness -- very much to the fore.

When elections came along, he persuaded the chairman to hang in "for one more year," which he reluctantly did.

When the secretary's job came up next, the shell-shocked chairman was very happy to propose Larry -- "the best secretary the club has ever had."

Larry was elected unopposed, texted the wife with the good news and then gave a rousing Brian Cowen-type speech, telling members of the dire situation of the club and the need to apply drastic measures to rescue the finances.

"It will be time to get back to our grassroots," said Larry "and that means we will go for a local who will train the team for the love of it. Sure, we could hardly do any worse than the fellow last year who cost us a fortune.

"Anyway as a County Board officer myself now, I could not be party to paying a manager under the counter. It will be a tough year, but this great club has often shown that when the going gets tough the tough get going. Sure we barely had 15 players in the spring of 1969 and look what happened."

Larry McGann, you never lost it!

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