| 1.6°C Dublin

Leinster chief warns it's time to tighten belts

Leinster Council chief executive Michael Delaney has warned that county boards in the province, as well as clubs, are veering towards financial peril.

In his annual report to be delivered to Leinster convention in Longford on Saturday, where Martin Skelly from the host county takes over as chairman from Seamus Howlin, Delaney advises even greater financial prudence from all units it has responsibility for.

Delaney acknowledges that clubs are already in trouble -- Thomas Davis held a special meeting in west Dublin last night to discuss their €2m debt -- and he also suggests that financial woes may now be stretching to boards in the province.

"The council may have other financial responsibilities in the years ahead," he warns.

"It is no great secret that a number of clubs in the province are in very serious financial difficulties. One or two of our county committees may be heading in that direction also.

"I am not in the least suggesting a bail-out response from the council, but at the same time we cannot stand on the sidelines and watch any of our units go past the point of no return.

"Hopefully all this is cyclical and in a few years' time we can look back and talk about the bad old days. Nevertheless, we must plan and act for the long haul. This means prudent managing of our finances now, and to achieve this we need the support of all stakeholders. I am confident that we will survive and prosper if this is forthcoming."

Delaney also addresses the issue of the controversial Leinster final and muses that no other sporting contest in Irish history has generated as many written or spoken words.

He puts on record in the report that Meath should never have been placed in the position they were last July -- having to make a call on whether to offer a replay or not.

"Let there be no doubt, Meath are the 2010 Leinster senior football champions. They had an outstanding campaign from their first round all the way to the final, something which is overlooked by many in reviewing the championships," he says.

"I said it at the time and now I say it again: the Meath players, management and county committee should never have been placed in the situation of deciding whether or not the final should have been replayed.

"The simple fact is that there is absolutely no provision in our rules for such a course of action.

"All of us in administration must shoulder the blame of allowing speculation to develop to the contrary."

Delaney has words of consolation for referee Martin Sludden too.

"Let us spare a thought -- even at this late stage -- for the match referee. I do not know Martin Sludden, never met the man," he says.

"However I do know that, like thousands of other referees, he is a volunteer helping in the promotion of our games.

"Gaelic football is his pastime and he came through the ranks of refereeing like so many before him. Until the fateful day in 2010 he was, like so many good referees, practically an anonymous participant in our games.

"All that changed in a split second and the consequences for the man and his family were catastrophic. For my own part, I wish him well in the future."


Delaney uses the report to add his voice to the growing clamour for the training ban to be addressed.

If the ban is to be retained in its current format then, Delaney argues, the start of the season will have to be put back.

"It is not my place to snitch on any county, but it is strongly rumoured that quite a few counties are now practically ignoring the rule while others have invented some creative activities to get around it," he says.

"This applies not alone to senior teams, but U-21 and minor also. Naturally, county board officers will not come out and say that I'm right, nor would I expect them to do so.

"Surely, though, there must be some means of facing up to the reality of the situation?

"Perhaps a tweaking of the GAA calendar might go some way to solving the problem.

"So long as we put on O'Byrne Cup/Walsh Cup/Kehoe Cup competitions in early January, then we are inviting county teams to prepare in November and December. I go back to why the rule was originally introduced and ask, is it serving the purpose for which it was introduced?

"If the majority reply to this question is in the negative, then it behoves us to act decisively, and soon."

Irish Independent