Monday 25 March 2019

Dignam: We'll use 'slush fund' to keep 2018 Rás on road


New Rás organiser Eimear Dignam
New Rás organiser Eimear Dignam

Ciarán Lennon

A new title sponsor is all the Rás organisers want for Christmas, but if they can't find one, they are prepared to use a 'once-off' rainy day fund to guarantee the iconic race stays on the road for 2018.

New race organiser Eimear Dignam insists the logistical plans are coming together as normal for the eight-day event despite the difficulties in replacing An Post, who confirmed their seven-year association was to come to an end on the eve of last May's event.

"If we don't get a sponsor the race will still go ahead," said Dignam, daughter of the well-known former Rás director Dermot.

"Over the past 20-odd years, under the stewardship of my dad at the time, we managed to put a small amount away from every Rás so we do have a slush fund. Now it's not huge, and if we use it, it's gone. It's a once-off option for us.

"Obviously, in an ideal world, we'd have a title sponsor, (but) if that doesn't happen we'll run the race on a slightly lower budget."

Dignam only took on the role in recent weeks after Tony Campbell stepped down, but she is surrounded by a familiar race committee drawn from the Rás Tailteann club.

"All the parts are in place, stage ends, the routes are done, the Guards, accommodation is done - all the normal stuff is being done. We're slightly behind where we normally would be, but we are now (catching up)," she said.

"The only big issue is we still don't have a sponsor. Before Tony stepped aside, I was involved with my dad and Tony trying to get a sponsor.

"For the last few months we've been trying every angle we can come up with to get a sponsor.

"An Post were wonderful sponsors and I know it was out of their control whether they withdrew from the race or not, but if we had a lead-in to (last year's Rás) we could have brought prospective sponsors on the race, so we found it harder then to get a foothold with sponsors. We still have a couple of leads out there so we're just waiting for some comeback on it."

They hope to fill in some of the gaps with sponsorships for the classification jerseys and the budget to assist international teams may be reduced, but for Dignam and Co the most important thing is to keep the race on the road and get back in the shop window.

"The (slush fund) is not enough to run the race in the format that we'd like, but it's enough to run it as we can. There's no point us putting money aside over the last 40-odd years, or whatever, and then not using it as a nuclear option. If we spend it it's gone, but there's no point on it sitting in the bank."

Dignam, who is a regional development officer with Dublin GAA and was a selector with the Dublin U-21 hurlers that won the 2016 Leinster title, has grown up with the Rás being part of the furniture around her home.

"For me and my sister Brona it's very much a legacy thing.

"Our dad was the organiser for our whole childhood, that's probably one of the real driving forces for us to keep it on the road."

Irish Independent

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