Wednesday 24 January 2018

GAA roadshow lays it on the line

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It started in the Kilmurray Lodge Hotel in Limerick last Monday night and will end in the McWilliams Hotel, Claremorris, next Monday night.

In between, it was Croke Park on Tuesday night and the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan, last night as the GAA's two major power brokers, president Christy Cooney and director-general Paraic Duffy, met county chairmen from the four provinces.

It's a type of spring clean-out, designed to sweep through a variety of issues ranging from the closed season to use of Association property to managerial payments. There are seven items on the formal agenda, with a tight schedule being maintained (meetings last two hours).

Opinions are varied as to the value of each meeting, with one chairman describing it as "helpful enough in its own way" while another interpreted it as a move to "whip us into line".

On the controversial issue of payments to managers, the fundamental question of how to enforce a policy when some of those charged with implementation gleefully ignore it remained unanswered.

And so it will for as long as counties (and indeed clubs) continue to believe that paying managers well above the stipulated expenses will lead to success.

Stop paying managers large sums of money was the clear instruction to the chairmen, some of whom must have squirmed uncomfortably in their chairs, hoping that the weight of guilt wouldn't make them glow bright red and draw an invitation to "share your story with us".

As for the November-December training ban, the message was clear: your counties supported it, so it's up to you to ensure that it's being applied and if you want to change it, bring a motion to Congress.

Of course, it's not being observed in every grade, not everywhere anyway. There are stories of minor teams training since last October, while the fitness levels of many senior teams so early in the season suggests that miracles must have taken place if they didn't have their first collective training session until after the January 1 deadline.

There's talk too of the changing economic times and the need to be more prudent with regards to money.

"It was made clear to us that there was no bail-out fund in Croke Park for counties or clubs who get into trouble and that everyone must keep their own houses in order," said one chairman.

The need to adhere to policy regarding the use of GAA property was also reinforced.

This is a particularly sensitive issue at present, especially among clubs who invested heavily in facilities and are now finding it difficult to meet their repayments.

Renting to other sporting organisations is an obvious cash cow but, according to rule, is one that should not be milked under any circumstance.

The great problem of how to combine club schedules with the hectic inter-county programme, especially in the first half of the year, is also on the agenda but if it hasn't been solved up to now it's difficult to see what impact a brief discussion can have.

The need to support the VHI summer camps is being emphasised from the top table amid reports that some counties were planning to go it alone.

The Official Agenda

1 Closed season

2 Training/match panels

3 VHI summer camps

4 Use of Association property

5 Players/County Board Committee

6 Club fixtures schedule

7 Payment to Managers

Irish Independent

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