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O Cathain looks to future with AAI back in black

TWO YEARS ago, they learnt of a shocking €400,000 deficit, but this weekend delegates at Athletics Ireland's Congress will hear that the association is back in the black.

"We came back from the brink," says Ciaran O Cathain, who took over as chair of finance and risk committee in 2010.

His report in Cavan will admit that "there were risks to the financial stability of the association", but will also stress they have been resolved.

"For the past two years we have not just been breaking even but been able to put a little aside in a contingency fund," O Cathain says. Delegates will hear that surpluses of €33,778 and €38,067 were made in 2010 and 2011 respectively and that a contingency of €70,000 has been created.

O Cathain concedes that a much greater emergency fund than that needs to be amassed by an association that has a turnover of €3.2m a year.

But it is still a massive turnaround from the turbulent days of 2009-2010 when the association almost imploded due to in-fighting and legal fees.

This financial stability also coincides with a 5pc drop in 'core funding' from the Sports Council (ISC) -- still a considerable €1.9m last year -- and O Cathain admits that he expects ISC support to drop further in the coming seasons due to the economic climate.

"We have been out in the market-place raising money ourselves," he says. "John Foley (CEO) has been proactive in this area, we have brought in new commercial partners and sponsors and our registration numbers are up."

Membership has increased to 35,490, an improvement of 10,500 since 2007, but the majority of that (61pc) still remains juveniles.

Athletics Ireland are targeting an additional 7,500 new members in the next two years and also want to find an extra €90,000 in sponsorship.

Last year's Congress was a particularly stormy affair, when the top table was asked some hard questions about the huge legal costs that the association had incurred during a High Court case with former CEO Mary Coghlan.

But this year's gathering will be a much more tame affair, with nothing contentious on the agenda or motions and most of the main elections set to be uncontested.

Liam Hennessy is stepping down as president after serving a maximum two terms and O Cathain will take over as he is the only nominee.

The heads of three of the main committees -- high performance (Ray Flynn), coaching and development (Jim Kidd), and juveniles (Jim Ryan), will all be retained as they are unopposed.

Georgina Drumm will take over the chair of competition, replacing Brendan McDaid, who has served the maximum two terms. The only contest will be for the chair of finance and risk, which will be between Peter O'Hanlon and Neil Martin.

Irish Independent