Friday 15 December 2017

How the numbers added up for Banty

A general view of the votes after they were counted and written down on the back of an envelope in favour of Seamus McEnaney becoming the new Meath senior football manager. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
A general view of the votes after they were counted and written down on the back of an envelope in favour of Seamus McEnaney becoming the new Meath senior football manager. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

As an exercise in transparency, it was virtually unprecedented for a county board to put the minute financial details attached to the appointment of their senior management team into the public domain -- as Meath did on Wednesday night.

From the nightly cost of the presence of a Monaghan-based physio to the amount of money that might be set aside as a phone allowance, the presentation delivered by Meath's treasurer Pat Clerkin -- a former bank manager -- was detailed, precise and revealing.

Maybe too revealing for some. But that's the extreme the Meath management committee felt they had to stretch to in order to ensure that the appointment of their candidate Seamus McEnaney and his management team be as smooth as possible.

They felt they had to bring clarity to a situation that had swollen with rumours since the previous week's management committee meeting to decide on the recommendation of McEnaney was adjourned for three more days to allow for further discussions.

Those discussions were, according to the treasurer at Wednesday night's meeting, at his behest. Whatever the arguments about the ideology of making an appointment from 'outside', the Meath officials were going to be certain of their costings. And cost was never far from the core of the argument of crossing county boundaries for the best management team available to them.

Earlier in the week, former Meath manager Eamonn Barry had made reference to a package of between €60,000 and €80,000 in a local radio interview.

Towards the end of last week, when notice of the management committee's recommendation to appoint McEnaney was circulated to clubs, a note at the end of the detail outlined that the same clubs would not be levied in 2011. This was clearly a response to another rumour that had taken legs in the vacuum between the two management meetings last week.

And on Wednesday night, board officials were at pains to suggests that levies on clubs would not be a future part of their artillery to fund the expenses of a core management team of five that will come from four different counties. So the cost of the Meath management team for the next three years was put out for public consumption.

"I found him (McEnaney) a breath of fresh air, most professional in every way he dealt with our interview. The figures were absolutely spot on, no ambiguity, clear as daylight, and he explained his plans," Clerkin told the Meath meeting.


According to the treasurer's figures, the whole package will cost a maximum of €99,000, amounting to nine monthly payments of €11,000. But here's the selling point for the Meath delegates: they also illustrated substantial savings to be made on some of last year's expenses, which will require the board to spend just €24,000 extra overall.

This will demand a couple of unusual sacrifices from the players. Firstly they'll be obliged to hold on to their jerseys after matches to ensure an estimated saving of €5,000 can be reached. A new set of jerseys has an approximate cost for a squad of 26 of just over €1,000.

Then there is the waiving of a warm-weather training week in Portugal or Spain, which has been a staple diet of Meath preparations in recent years and will save €30,000.

With the presence of a physio at training each night, 'out of hours' sessions will be cut and only in extreme cases will alternative arrangements be made, realising a projected saving of €12,000. And €8,000 in 'masseur' expenses accrued last season will also be rediverted to meet the €11,000 monthly expense bills.

With last season's management travelling expenses coming to some €20,000, according to Clerkin, the total savings from 2010 will come to an estimated €75,000, requiring another €24,000 from the board to fund the package.

McEnaney has pledged to immerse himself in fundraising to assist in bridging that gap, something he was skilled at during his six years in Monaghan.

The key figure of €11,000 will incorporate either a phone allowance for those involved or a mobile phone each from the board's supplier.

The Monaghan-based physio that comes as part of the package will cost €150 per night, three nights a week, a cost of just under €2,000 per month. This, stressed Clerkin, was broadly a standard figure for the service.

When phone allowances are calculated, much of what is left will meet the travel and subsistence of the other four members of the management team. The strength and conditioning coach Martin McElkennon comes from Tyrone, football coach Paul Grimley lives in Armagh, while McEnaney himself is just over the border in Monaghan. His assistant manager Liam Harnan lives locally.

If Meath were to exit the championship at the same stage as 2010 the cost of the package would fall to €77,000, as August and September would not be included. Given the dates of the first round of qualifiers at the end of June, the minimum cost will be €66,000.

The board also revealed that any travel done between now and January 1 in terms of logistics and setting up structures would be done "free gratis".

County chairman Barney Allen stressed that there would be no "under-the-counter" payments to anyone -- only regular mileage and subsistence would be paid -- and that the unveiling of everything involved was in the interests of absolute transparency.

The surprise on Wednesday night was not the scale of the figures but the actual revelation of them. By comparison to other major 'players' in the GAA world, the cost is not excessive. Kerry spent €182,000 on medical and physio bills alone for inter-county teams in their All-Ireland winning 2009 campaign. At least 80pc of that would have been on the senior team. Under the terms of the Meath plan, physio bills can't exceed €20,000.

Tipperary's bill for running inter-county teams now regularly comes in at over €1m. This is the price of success that is now the new reality for Meath football.

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