Chairman’s Address at Kilkenny GAA Convention 2010

Fri 17th Dec Paul Fitzgerald

Chairman’s Address at Kilkenny GAA Convention 2010

Paul KinsellaA dhaoine uaisle, is mór an onóir domsa mar Chathaoirleach ar Choiste Chontae Chill Chainnigh bheith i láthair anseo anocht. Ba mhaith liom fáilte is fiche a chur roimh gach éinne go dtí an chomhdáil seo i mbliana. Iarraim oraibh tamall a thabhairt dom mo thuairimí a chur ós bhur gcomhair.

I’m delighted as Chairman of Kilkenny County Board G.A.A. to welcome all delegates to O’Loughlin/Gaels G.A.A. club in this the 126 year since our foundation. Tonight while we’ll look back with justifiable pride on another successful year in the history of the G.A.A. in Kilkenny, we must also look at the future and the demands and obligations it will put on us.

2010 will long be remembered as the year when we almost reached another milestone in the illustrious story of the G.A.A. in Kilkenny. Secretary Ned has given a comprehensive report on the performance of all our teams and team managements so I don’t intend to go into such detail.

However, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the achievements of all four teams and their management teams. Pride of place must go to our senior team, their manager Brian Cody and his management team – they reached their fifth final in a row and although unsuccessful they accepted defeat in the style of truly great champions. Our Intermediate team reached their third All Ireland Final in a row and achieved their second success. Well done to the players and Pat Hoban and his management team. Similarly our Minor team reached their third final in a row and achieved their second success. Well done to the players and Richie Mulrooney and his management team. Our U’21 team after early promise proved to be very disappointing in the Leinster Final, however, I believe that Michael Walsh and his management team will do everything in their power to restore our position in 2011. I would like to extend thanks to our team managements for their commitment. Being involved in team management takes a massive commitment especially in relation to time spent away from family and friends. I extend our thanks on behalf of everybody involved to all for their volunteerism in the cause of Kilkenny hurling.

It is difficult to find words to adequately compliment our senior players on their achievements and indeed much will be written and we’ll all have our favourite memory from the various games. I would like to highlight their achievements off the field. I would like to thank them for how they have represented themselves, their families, their clubs and Kilkenny and the example they have given to our youth of the standard expected of anyone who wishes to reach the top in Kilkenny. This perhaps may well be their greatest legacy to the G.A.A. in Kilkenny.

FOOTBALL

In 2008 we re-entered the National Football League but since then it has been a difficult passage, progress has been slow mainly due to the difficulty of maintaining a regular panel. However, it is hoped to progress towards some victories in the leinster Junior Football Championship.

Despite varying results I would like to thank our players, Dick Mullins, John McGrath and their management team for putting in a tremendous effort of which they can be justifiably proud. They were most unlucky in the Leinster Junior Championship and with more support from all clubs and players some success is achievable at this level. However, we again come across the difficulty created by regulations being brought in on a ‘one cap fits all basis’, as our football management are unable to do any preparation with our football team during November and December and with our hurling Championships only being completed at the end of October they have to put an unprepared team on the field for the Byrne Cup – this certainly does very little for promotion. I would like to thank Adrian Weldon and his management team for their work with our U’21 Football and Maurice Flynn and his management team for their work with our Minor Footballers. I would appeal to all clubs for support during 2011 by ensuring all players are made available when required. Finally I wish Tom Brennan all the best in his new position as Football Board Chairman and thank Tommy Duggan for his valuable contribution over the years.

The strong financial support of our team sponsors Glanbia Plc continues to play a vital role in ensuring that all our teams are properly looked after and that our county’s proud record in this regard is maintained. Their contribution to the G.A.A. is highlighted by the fact that they offered extra help when we were confronted with serious injuries in the run up to the All Ireland final. I believe that the association is beneficial to both as both strive for excellence and success annually.

SUPPORTERS  CLUBS

Our Supporters Club branches here in Kilkenny and in Dublin and Kildare also contribute substantially to the financing of all our teams and to the overall promotion of our games. The people involved in each of these branches give a huge amount of their time to fundraising and it would greatly assist if as many as possible would become members of one of these branches and so help them to further increase their contribution. The major success of 2010 was a significant increase in membership. I extend my sincere thanks to each of the Officers in our Supporters Clubs for their unstinting work on our behalf and wish them continued success in the year ahead.

CAMOGIE +  LADIES  FOOTBALL

Following the breakthrough for Ladies Football in our county in 2007 the Board have continued to build at school and club level. I compliment them on the progress made during the past year and I’m sure they look forward to 2011 having learned much along the way.

Camogie also continued to make progress in 2010 and lost out in the All Ireland semi-final to the eventual winners. I congratulate all concerned and look forward with anticipation to a Senior All Ireland victory in the not too distant future as all the work at juvenile level will undoubtedly bear fruit.

HANDBALL

Handball as is now almost customary, had another successful season with many great wins in a variety of All Ireland competitions. Congratulations to the young and the not so young who achieved these victories and well done again to the small but dedicated group of people who administer the game in the county.

CLUB  CHAMPIONSHIPS

The great run of success enjoyed by our clubs in both the Provincial and All Ireland competitions in recent years continued this year with Ballyhale Shamrocks and St. Lactain’s winning the Senior and Intermediate All Ireland Championships. Congratulations to all involved. Congratulations also to O’Loughlin/Gaerls, Dicksboro and John Lockes on their victories in the current Leinster Championships and we wish them well in the forthcoming All Ireland series.

COUNTY  CHAMPIONSHIPS

This year’s county championships provided some great games in all grades. I would like to congratulate all our Championship winners: O’Loughlin/Gaels in the Senior Hurling Championship, Dicksboro  in the Intermediate hurling Championship and John Lockes in the Junior Hurling Championship, Dicksboro, Barrow Rangers and Ógra Graig/B & W’s on their respective Minor Hurling Championships. Unfortunately our U’21 Finals have not been completed mainly due to the inclement weather – Muckalee, Thomastown on winning their respective football championships. Unfortunately the Junior Football Championship remains to be completed. Finally I wish to congratulate the winners of all our subsidiary competitions and it is worth noting that most clubs in the county enjoyed success in some grade which is a good advertisment for the work being done.

Kilkenny Co Board again expresses its thanks to Saint Canices Credit Union, JJ Kavanagh and Sons, Iverk Produce, Ml Lyng Motors, The Citroen and Honda Centre, and Duggan Steel for their valuable sponsorship of aIl our competitions.

REFEREES

That we cannot play our games without referees is a very obvious statement to make, but yet how often do so many of us, myself included, forget this when a perceived decision goes against our own team. All of us have a part to play in changing this culture whilst at the same time insisting that the highest possible standard of referring is achieved and I would ask all our referees to work with us in this regard. We are fortunate in this county that at present we’ve enough referees but this will soon change if we do not continue to recruit and train new referees. All our clubs can play a big part in this by identifying and encouraging suitable people in their own clubs. These people can be identified by using them in training sessions and in their juvenile tournaments. I would like to thank our present referees for helping us to organise over 2,000 games and I’d also ask them to identify new people. Also at U’12 level in 2011 we will continue to implement the Respect Initiative – respect for each other, for referees and for all adults organising games – we ask all clubs to help and support us in this area and to lead by example.

While we don’t face any rule experimentation in our national leagues this year, we face a proposal that certain committees at National Level be given the right to propose rule changes annually while counties may only bring forward proposals every five years. Again proposals like this are making the Association less democratic – the members of these committees are club and County Board members and should fight their proposals through their clubs and County Conventions as has always been the case. I’m not convinced that regular change is necessary and believe that it’s time to concentrate on the correct implementation of our existing rules.

COMMITTEES

Much of the increasing workload is now being devolved to sub-committees such as discipline and fixtures being dealt with by the C.C.C., appeals by the Hearings Committee, Coaching etc. by the Games Committee and so on. As most appointments at Provincial and National level are job specific we may now have to look at how we appoint our committees as it appears to me that members in the future may need particular knowledge and we may need to appoint rather than elect. Again I’d like to thank all the members of our present committees for their work which often goes unseen as many of us are happy as long as the work is done and don’t worry about who does it. I’d also like to thank the members of our Management Committees who act as Chairpersons of these sub-committees.

REGISTRATION + GARDA  VETTING

Registration was an issue that occupied much of our time over the past three years. I am glad to be able to report tonight that all clubs are now registering online. This is now the way that it will be done for the future. The registration figures for 2010 show an overall increase. While we’re assured that the recent debacle with Servasport is not serious we await full information, which we hope will be satisfactory as otherwise this will be a major setback. . We’ll meet all clubs in the New Year and see what work needs to be done in 2011. I’d like to thank Jimmy Walsh and his committee for their work in this particular area.

We also asked all personnel working with our youth in all our clubs to under go Garda Vetting. This has been very successful and I thank all clubs for their co-operation.

WEBSITE

Our county website is being upgraded and it is hoped to launch the new website early in the New Year. Fixtures, Results and updated League tables will now be available on a daily basis together with up to the minute news on all other affairs within the County which greatly enhances the site as a resource for all. Also all Clubs will be able to check their participation level in each area and see if they’re neglecting a particular area. Another new initiative here will be weekly podcasts on G.A.A. affairs in the county. This should be of great interest to all Kilkenny people particularly those living away from Kilkenny and living oversees. I’m sure our youth in particular will embrace this area. In 2011 we hope to introduce advertising as an extra revenue stream. I compliment the small but dedicated group of people who have taken responsibility for this project.

YOUTH

No organisation has done more work for the youth of this country than the G.A.A. Volunteers provide countless thousands of hours coaching the youth of our country and providing playing facilities in every parish in the country. It would be impossible to put a value on the contribution made by G.A.A. volunteers over the last hundred and twenty five years, a contribution that should not be underestimated or under appreciated but greatly valued by the many parents whose children’s lives have been enhanced by being involved in the G.A.A. Every grant received from government by G.A.A. clubs is in recognition for the work done by members helping the youth of the country and enhancing every community as well.

On the playing side of things the formative years of all our young players are most important in deciding their future participation in our games particularly given the ever increasing number of alternative sporting options now available to them. It follows then that the work that is ongoing at Bord Na nÓg and both Primary and Secondary school level continues to be most important. We are fortunate in this county that we have so many dedicated people doing such great work in each of these areas and I compliment and thank each and every one of them. In recent years also we have introduced our development squad system and here again we are fortunate with the calibre of people involved. All of the work in these areas is being further complimented by our two outstanding coaches Briain Ryan and James Meagher.

I hope that everyone involved in this area saw the achievements of this year as the fruition of their work.

DEVELOPMENT  SQUADS

This year again we reviewed our system and programme. The most up to date knowledge and information on all aspects of team preparations in areas such as Diet, Hydration, Physical Development as well as Skill coaching are now part of the programme. The full support of clubs is paramount if we are to succeed in delivering this programme whose objective is that players from under 14 to adult at both club and county level attain the highest possible standard. I’d like to acknowledge the work of Brendan O’Sullivan, Pat Henderson and the respective coaches for their work.

FINANCE

I am very pleased to be able to say that the financial report before Convention tonight records a surplus of income over expenditure – despite contesting three All Irelands and continuing our development work.

As you are aware the development of the O’Loughlin Road end of Nowlan Park is progressing satisfactorily and hopefully will be completed by the end of February. These new facilities already greatly enhance Nowlan Park. We’ve been enabled to do this because of the backing of Croke Park and Leinster Council for the project  and also our own savings. However, with this work and the necessity to have our teams prepared as well as possible we must continue to be vigilant particularly during the coming year.                                  

GAA Strategic Vision and Action Plan (2009-2015)                                    Following the launch of the new strategic plan on November 25th 2008 all counties were asked to produce their own plan. I asked John Healy to form a committee to work on producing Kilkenny’s plan. This plan maps out the road the GAA will take for the next six years and the most important aspect of this consultation process was that it was to come from the bottom up with the views of our volunteers having the main influence. So during the autumn all clubs were invited to send representatives to a meeting to express their views on the eleven key areas and how we all measured up to the targets for 2010 – this was a very enlightening evening. The eleven key areas examined were:  Volunteers, Urbanisation, Games Schedule, Games Development     Go Games adopted as best practice in clubs and schools.
New code of Best Practice for Youth Sport.  Communications,  Funding Opportunities,  Financial Excellence,  Inclusion and Integration,  Club, Culture and Community,  Planning, Officer Support     

I encourage you all to reread the strategy.

Let us not consign it to the top shelf of a cabinet, from which we only take it down from time to time. Rather let us have it at hand and let us measure how we are doing. To measure and assess our performance is necessary for progress; self evaluation is healthy so I’d appeal to all clubs to examine the report and see the areas that need to be addressed in 2011. I’m sure many of you will be surprised at how well you are doing but you’ll also find areas that need to be addressed. As I’ve said in the foreword ‘This is how change happens, though. It is a relay race, and we’re very conscious of that, that our job really is to do our part of the race, and then we pass it on, and then someone picks it up, and it keeps going’.

I’d like to thank John Healy, John Buggy, Brendan O’Sullivan, Brian Ryan and Conor Brennan for their work.

In 2008 Leinster Council published it’s demographic study of each county. Like most counties Kilkenny experienced growth in and near urban areas and decrease in rural areas. These trends pose particular problems i.e  the areas of growth are faced with the problem of inclusion and of having enough volunteers to service the increased numbers. They have to make the newcomers feel part of the community and go out and invite them in – indeed there may already be areas and estates which already do not feel included and I’d appeal to the clubs in this situation to go out with the hand of friendship.

On the other hand our rural clubs with declining population are facing not only the problem of decreasing numbers but also the problem of maintaining community. Many of the pillars which went towards the making of a parish community as slowly being eroded – by this I mean that many of the meeting places for rural people are slowly disappearing – Post office, Shop, Pub, Low attendance at Mass etc. so the only constant is the Club, Club grounds etc. Several  rural clubs over the coming years may have to replicate the work of Conahy Shamrocks and provide the parish Community Centre.

Both of these scenarios provide major challenges for our clubs but I believe that we will be able to meet these challenges with proper planning. I’m happy to say that clubs have begun to address these issues and progress will be made during 2011. In 2011 we’re facing the added challenge of emigration This could have major implications for all clubs. While having no readymade answers I’d ask clubs to help out their members in any way possible and hopefully this will only be a problem of short duration.

During the year some things happened with which I do not agree. We asked for the interpretation of the 5 year rule regarding officerships to be re-examined but again there was no change. This means that any person holding a position for 5 years must not only relinquish the position but may never hold that position again. I agree with each person vacating their position after five years but I do not believe that it is correct to bar a person for ever from holding that position again. Over a ten or fifteen year period we may well lose many people with particular knowledge and expertise entirely or if they wish to stay involved they may well end up in positions to which they are unsuitable. I still believe that the one word we should not use is the word ‘never’ as none of us know what the future holds and what our needs may be. As Secretary Ned says in his report ‘This is not a business model that any successful company would use.

The rigid application of the Players Injury Scheme has caused difficulty to a number of clubs and officials as they were unable to have the forms returned within the 60 day period and as a result the claims were not accepted. This has caused embarrassment to the volunteer official and loss to the player and perhaps the club. We now find that there was a big increase in claims during 2010, probably because club officials are taking no chances. 

It is vital for any holder of this position to enjoy the support, loyalty and confidence of his fellow officers. To Ned I’d like to say that you made a great job of what was new territory for you – you got on top of the job from day one and got through an immense amount of work during the past two years despite the regular long journey’s from Mooncoin to Kilkenny. Again I’d like to say thanks to Vice-Chairman Pat – I suppose being used to saying ‘no’ when distributing All Ireland tickets was big help when dealing with fixtures. The workload of the treasurer has increased greatly and Barry’s expertise in dealing with money is of immense benefit to the Board. I’d like to say well done to Barry. In the area of Finance I’d also like to acknowledge the work and help given by Pat Henderson.

I want to acknowledge the input of the other members of the management committee namely P.R.O. Conor Denieffe ( who has quickly put his own stamp on the position), Pat Henderson, Jimmy Walsh, Johnny Comerford, Val Malone, John Healy, Seamus Reade and Eddie Blackmore each of whom contributed so much in so many different ways.

I also extend my thanks to the members of the county board who freely gave of their time and at all times worked for the good of the county and likewise all involved in Bord na Nog, Divisional Boards and our clubs and schools to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. While mentioning Divisional Boards 2010 sees the retirement of officers who’ve given tremendoud service to us all: Ned Buggy, Joe Pyke, Tommy Delahunty, Tommy Kelly and Tommy Duggan. I’m sure we’ll be calling on your experience very shortly. I’d also like to wish the incoming officers: P.J. Kenny, Willie Dempsey, Bosco Bryan and Tom Brennan all the best. Our voluntary Year Book Committee are also deserving of my sincere thanks for their many outstanding publications.

Kilkenny are successful because previous generations of Gaels jumped hurdles to keep the GAA alive.  They did so because they had a vision and sense of purpose driven by a love of Gaelic games; a love of Irish culture, a love of family, parish and community.  The bond which held it all together was a love of club and county.  In return the GAA gave them a sense of place and a strong identity.  They knew who they were, they knew where they come from and they know where they were going.
History teaches us that the success of the GAA is dependent on each generation playing their part so as to hand the club and county to the next generation in better shape than what was inherited.
Different times bring different challenges.  We know that getting to the top is difficult but staying there is even more difficult.  Our county teams, schools and colleges have brought us many successes.  The challenge to our generation is to continue to build on those successes.

So in 2011 we set out to match our achievements of this year.

Go raibh maith agaibh,

Pól Cinsealach – Cathaoirleach

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