Saturday 24 March 2018

Longford facing testing times

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

An extensive survey of Longford GAA clubs presents a stark image of the problems facing the association at grass-roots level.

They range from the possibilities that some clubs will cease to exist to the need for amalgamation, while also acknowledging the tough struggle to finance day-to-day activities.

If, as seems highly likely, Longford is representative of the rest of the country, clubs are facing their biggest challenge for generations.

The survey of all 24 registered clubs in the county, carried out by the 'Longford Leader', shows that emigration, rising unemployment and decreasing revenue streams have combined to place GAA units under unprecedented pressure.

There are fears that some clubs could cease to exist while others will be forced to amalgamate, due to the much-changed environment.

However, Longford county chairman Pat Cahill remains upbeat about the future.

"There are no clubs in Longford that are in serious financial trouble that I know of. The GAA will survive because it is run by community-based people, making community- based decisions," he said.

Among the common themes across most of the clubs is the difficulty in raising money. While clubs found it relatively easy to sell €50 and €100 tickets for fundraising in the past, it's now difficult to shift anything more expensive that €10.

Significantly too, reduced social activities have lowered GAA income. With fewer people visiting pubs in Longford, sales of club Lotto tickets have reduced.

Clubs are worst hit financially in the early part of the year when they face affiliation and insurance costs, while physiotherapy bills were also cited as a major item of expenditure.

Rathcline vice-chairman Louis Skelly told the survey that this was the third recession he had seen and "none has lived up to this one."

He believes that clubs will have to consider amalgamation in the future. "If you look at the Church, there will be amalgamations, never mind at football level. I do think there won't be as many clubs (in the future)," he said.

Irish Independent

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