Sunday 17 December 2017

New blood gets Leitrim club back from brink

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

A DRAMATIC ultimatum to call time on a 100-year-old club in Leitrim because not enough people were coming forward to help out has had the desired effect.

Numbers quadrupled at the EGM of Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher last weekend to make its future safe, but the woman who threw down the gauntlet says their plight has highlighted the extent of the problem in many other clubs around the country.

"People have been in contact with me, saying they have the exact same problem," said Eilis McGourty. "I was amazed by how many clubs got in touch, we are definitely not the only ones with this problem.

"It can get very frustrating, especially when you see how much money is generated up in Croke Park where they have so much full-time staff while, at club level, we are so dependent on volunteers just to keep things going," she added.

McGourty (26) has been on the Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher executive since she was just 20 and was the outgoing secretary.

Her mother, Maura, and brother Padraig were also on the executive, but when only eight people (including three board members) turned up for their recent AGM, McGourty took action and said it was time for people to step up or for the club to be wound up.

Its survival has been ensured after close to 40 people turned up at last Saturday's EGM when several new faces joined the executive.

Rural depopulation and emigration have contributed to the increasing number of rural GAA clubs really struggling to keep their heads above water.

Some have survived by amalgamating at juvenile level and the GAA has acknowledged that the problem has become a crisis.

But McGourty stressed that though Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher are surrounded on either side by Leitrim's current 'big two' – Melvin Gaels and Glencar-Manorhamilton – small, rural clubs like their own have been able to survive because their county board runs small-sided competitions.

"At minor level we compete in a nine-a-side league and an 11-a-side championship, and, at U-21 level, we play 13-a-side," she said. "Some clubs want to get rid of them, especially the nine-a-side league."

"But they've really helped us hold onto our underage players and field our own teams and maybe more counties should look at that.

"We've lost some players to America and Australia and even one to Sweden, but it isn't the playing numbers that was our biggest problem. The problem was how few people were coming forward to help out and volunteer. I don't honestly know why, but thankfully things have turned around.

"Calling an EGM and suggesting we disband might have seemed a bit dramatic but at least it got some reaction and the community really responded, which was great," said McGourty, who has remained on as vice-secretary and PRO.

Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher reached the county intermediate semi-finals last summer where they lost to eventual champions Gortlettragh after a replay.

Irish Independent

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