Christy receives a rousing reception

OUTGOING Treasurer Christy O’Connor received the biggest applause of the night for his long service to Clare Ladies Football. Associated with the board since 1988, the Coolmeen clubman served under five different chairpersons during his various terms and on this his sixth successive report as Treasurer, he also reported an annual profit of € 10,844.22 and an overall balance of € 27,890.96.

However, that healthy position came with a caveat to the incoming treasurer as expected transport costs of approximately € 8-9,000 are imminent in the New Year.

O’Connor also told the delegates that gate receipts ‘held their own’ in 2011 (14,107) with only a slight decrease from the previous year, with income totaling € 107,712.37 while expenditure amounted to € 96,908.15.

A large bulk of both totals centred around Club Registration and the distribution of same to various central boards and the injury scheme. Church Gate Collections also made up € 8,300.77 of the income total while senior team expenses were € 11,742.90.


Celtic scalp the Avenue

Avenue United 0 – Connolly Celtic 1 at Lisdoonvarna

AN EARLY Christmas treat for Connolly Celtic who turned their cup agony into cup ecstacy on Sunday when taking the notable scalp of Avenue Utd. Almost two months ago, the First Division side were heartbreakingly edged out by Bridge Celtic in the Division 1 League Cup Final after a two hour endurance battle that went all the way to sudden death penalties.

This game could have easily strayed into an extra period as well but for a dogged Connolly performance that saw them simply refuse to yield despite the expected Avenue backlach. Indeed, the victory was made all the more admirable when you consider that Connolly lost regular goalkeeper Niall Quinn in the warm-up and had to use outfield player Brendan Field as the stand-in goalkeeper from the outset.

Economy was the key to their first half advantage after taking the lead as early as the ninth minute with what was their only real meaningful shot on target in the half. It stemmed from a pinpoint Mickey Byrnes cross from the left that was met by the onrushing Kieran Dillon to nestle his header into the top left corner of the net.

It arguably came against the run of play as it was the Ennis side who had done all the early running and were enjoying particular success down the left wing where young duo Dylan Casey and David Smyth proved difficult to police. However, a serious ankle injury to Casey midway through the half disrupted their flow and while his replacement David McCarthy had several attempts at goal, including a rasping effort that was excellently parried by Field, the back-to-back Clare Cup champions remained frustrated.

There were also penalty claims at both ends before the break but both were deemed too theatrical while Barry Nugent had a late first half effort tipped away as Connolly held out to the interval.

The second half was much more open and conducive to counter-attacking football as Avenue altered their formation to three at the back in the hope of unlocking the Connolly defence while the leaders also switched right-back Alan Markham to the wing to menacing effect.

Indeed, Markham was influential at both sides of the field on the restart, first when getting back to deny McCarthy what should have been the equaliser and then later on when repeatedly breaking down the right, only for the final ball on each occasion to let him down.

As the half progressed, Avenue became more and more desperate which resulted in some ambitious long range shooting from Mikey Mahoney and Barry Nugent in particular that never troubled goalkeeper Field.

Avenue had better luck with David Smyth’s 73rd minute free that seemed destined for the corner of the net, only for Field to match it with a great diving save. Down the other end, Avenue goalkeeper John Healy also had to be alert to keep out a Kenneth Kennedy volley in the 86th minute, a goal which would have surely sealed the win.

In the end however, that second goal wasn’t necessary as despite several goalmouth scrambles that could have easily nestled in the Connolly net, Avenue were simply unable to break down a stubborn rearguard, marshalled supremely by Kieran Dillon.

Christmas came early for Connolly with their present, a fourth round home tie against Limerick superpowers Pike Rovers in the New Year.


Decision on meeting reduction deferred

A MOVE by county board secretary Pat Fitzgerald to reduce the number of county board meetings to six each year has been deferred for consideration at a Special Convention on January 15 next.

This decision was taken by delegates to Thursday’s Convention, amid claims from county board chairman Michael O’Neill that some county board around the country have as little as two county board meetings during the year.

The motion, tabled by the Sixmilebridge club on behalf of Mr Fitzgerald, was one of two on the Convention Clár that dealt specifically with county board meetings – the other from the St Joseph’s Miltown, which called for 11 county board gatherings during the year was also deferred.

“For many years we’ve had similar structures,” said Fitzgerald in outlining his argument for change. “In many businesses, if they didn’t change for a number of years, then we know what would happen.

“It would afford the opportunity to have debate. The text of the motion is incidental. I am just putting forward my reasons.

“I believe there are many issues of concern in Clare GAA. You may say why didn’t I write about them, but I feel it may not have been in the best interests to address them in that fashion.

“I do feel that there is a need for change, but most of all, we would all agree that in recent years, particularly in the past couple of years, with emigration and migration.

“We did a survey last year (on player emigration) and we tried to do it again this year. It is absolutely frightening.

“The place address these critical issues which are going to confront our association in the near future is with the key people in the association. The key people as far as I am concerned are the leaders of the clubs. The elected people in the clubs,” he added.

The secretary’s motion argued that six county board meetings would involve the chairman or secretary of each club, the board delegate and senior team manager being present.

A number of delegates to Convention backed the motion.

“The workings of board meetings needs to be review and restructured and this motion will help to achieve that,” said Kilrush Shamrocks delegate, Colm Browne. “It might be a step forward for tonight, but it is timely.

“There is a disconnect at times be- tween what happens at board meetings and what’s reflected on the ground in clubs and the message that’s relayed at board meetings is not the message that’s agreed at club meetings – the opinion of the club doesn’t come through.

“Getting the key people in clubs into meetings is critical because the issues that the GAA is facing in terms of migration and numbers and finance, there needs to be a reconnection between the clubs and the executive. The only way you can do that is by having meaningful meetings,” he added.

“This is an effort to have quality before quantity,” said Cratloe delegate, Flan O’Reilly. “We are beginning to realise that the GAA is more than the officers. There needs to be more of a calculated input from the clubs and this is an attempt to do this.

“I would like to support the motion,” said Cooraclare delegate, PJ McGuane, “particularly because with it we’re going to get the motion a month in advance. There is a disconnect”.

“If we pass this, it’s going to anchor us down,” said Tulla delegate Michael O’Halloran. “It’s going to anchor us down to a situation where we discuss football matters for one hour and hurling matters for one hour and then we have general discussion.

“When I was young we had a holy hour. If you weren’t spiritually in- clined it was an endurance. If some of us had to sit through codes we’re not particularly interested in, we have great difficulty with this.

And, Allowing secretaries of subcommittees call meetings, I think it is a total and absolute recipe for disaster,” added O’Halloran.

“We are asking that there would be 11 meetings in the year,” said St Joseph’s Miltown delegate, Noel Walsh, in opposing the notion of only having six board meetings a year. “If we reduce our number of meetings to six – if it’s passed we would probably be the only county in the association who don’t hold a monthly meeting,” added Walsh.

“I can assure you that that isn’t true. There are counties who hold two and maybe four meetings a year,” countered board chairman, Michael O’Neill.

“I was astonished that after the June meeting of the county board, we didn’t come back until the middle of September for the next full county board meeting,” responded Walsh.

“This was despite the fact that the intervening months were a hive of activity at club level, county level and everything.

“It’s better to be talking at a county board meeting than to be talking in the pub, or talking out at the gate giving out. The place to be talking is at a monthly county board meeting or the Convention,” he added.

“Six meetings. There can be eight, nine, ten meetings. I don’t mind,” said Pat Fitzgerald. “The one thing I would say that the first meeting would be in February and then it would be up to the county committee to do two things – one, before the end of the meeting, they would set the agenda for the next meeting and would decide on when it would be held,” he added.


Br McNamara calls on GAA to ‘open up the archives’

CLARE GAA have been called upon to make their new Michael Cusack Archive that’s now housed at its Áras Chiosóg headquarters in Clareabbey available to members of the public to view for research purposes.

In making the call, Br Sean McNamara, who donated the material to Clare GAA earlier in the year, said that granting public access to Michael Cusack papers he had collected over three decades was crucial to keeping the legacy of the GAA’s founding father to the fore.

“As you all know, nobody would be here tonight with Michael Cusack,” said Br McNamara. “During the past 30 years, I have been collecting materials dealing with the life and times of Michael Cusack.

“All the information I collected over the years – and being of an age that I may not be much longer on this planet – I have decided to make it available.

“Des Crowe suggested to me that the proper thing to do with it would be to give it to the county board. During the month of May, we spent many hours putting together the material.

“It consists of 14 folders of material – in other words there is in excess of 200 items. For those of you who may not know, all the material belonging to Michael Cusack is in the university of Galway.

“That is not much use to people, because it is almost impossible to get a look at it. I’m one of few to have seen the material, because last May I gave the university 12 items.

“By giving the material to the county board it means that people wanting to get information relating to Michael Cusack will be readily available. That’s readily available and I hope that this will happen,” added Br McNamara.

The Kilmurry McMahon man used the platform of Thursday’s Convention to launch a volley in the direction of Ennis Town Council, over what he called the local authority’s misrepresentation of Cusack’s proper place in GAA history.

“There are still people who think that the GAA was not the brainchild of Michael Cusack,” said Br McNamara rounding on detractors of the Carron man.

“It was Michael and Michael alone who thought up the founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association,” continued Br McNamara.

“There are a number of information boards in Ennis. It is located on Francis Street, close to where Clare FM was and it says ‘The GAA was the brainchild of PW Nally, 1857-91. He suggested his idea to his friend, Michael Cusack and active Fenian’.

“On both counts it’s wrong. It wasn’t PW Nally’s brainchild. It was Michael Cusack’s brainchild,” added Br McNamara.


Football, but handball

THE game of football is not as we once knew it – that’s according to former Clare football selector of 25 years Noel Walsh who has said that if the number of consecutive handpasses is not curbed the game will have to be name changed to Gaelic Hand and Football.

The former chairman of the Munster Council, who was a Clare selector in the county’s Munster championship winning year of 1992, took his crusade to bring more foot passes back into the game to the floor of the annual Convention by way of a motion that’s now set to go forward to next year’s GAA Congress.

Walsh’s motion said: “When a team has completed three consecutive movements of the ball by hand or fist, the next move must be to kick the ball by foot”.

A similar motion from Ruan read: “The number of consecutive hand passes in Gaelic Football to be confined to a maximum of three. Penalty: – Free to the opposing side””

“There has been a considerable amount of discussion and negative talk about the amount of times in which the ball is being kicked – the lack of kicking,” said Walsh in putting forward his motion.

“We don’t want the handpass to be excluded at all, but we are allowing for three handpasses and then the ball has to be kicked.

“If it continues the way it’s going, as we saw in the All-Ireland semi-final (Dublin v Donegal) last year, there will have to be a proposal at some Convention asking for the game of Gaelic Football to be changed to Gaelic Hand and Football.

“This is because of the way it’s going – for every five deliveries of the ball by hand there is only one delivery by foot. We would hope that this motion will be on the Clár for Congress,” he added.


Lee lays down his law on culling clubs

ANY proposal to reduce the number of senior teams in the county as part of a radical overhaul of club structures in the county that’s being considered by a new county board committee would be a retrograde step.

That was the warning sounded out by former Clare County Board vicechairman, Michael Lee, with the Tubber delegate railing against any move to cull senior teams that might be put before clubs at a Special Convention that’s been earmarked for January 15 next.

“I hear a lot of talk of reducing the number of teams,” Lee told the annual Convention, “but over the past five years we have seen four new teams win the senior championship. That has to be good. For the next two or three years we will see two more clubs win the senior championship.

“There is no fear that the traditional clubs will come back and win senior championships again. They just have to raise their games and I don’t think that reducing the number of clubs at this particular time is the appropriate way forward,” added Lee.

“That will be raised at the special convention in relation the finding of the committee that has been established to look into fixtures,” said county board chairman, Michael O’Neill. “I don’t think we should pre-empt the findings of that committee.

“Pat (Fitzgerald’s) report is very honest in relation to the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment. I don’t wish to comment on it any further than that,” the chairman added.

“I notice the spin that is being put on things,” retorted Lee. “There is no spin,” said O’Neill. “I’m putting no spin on it. I put it quite clearly to the November meeting that I put a committee in place at the request and after motion from Michael Curtin from O’Curry’s.

“It’s not coming from Michael O’Neill or any other individual. It’s the entire body of Clare GAA who are looking into structures and competitions in Clare. Let nobody else put a different slant or opinion on it. Certainly not,” said O’Neill in hitting back.

“I’m not saying that,” said Lee.

“It sounded like that,” answered O’Neill. “I have said that hard deci- sions will have to be made in the new year. I don’t to pre-empt anything. That committee has an autonomy and it will come back with its findings and its report,” he added.

All motions on games and structures for championships, which number 19 in all weren’t discussed at Thursday’s Convention, with motions 13 to 31 held over to the Special Convention when the findings of the county board chaired by Padraic Boland from Broadford will present their findings.

However, a debate on structures was sparked by Tulla delegate, Michael O’Halloran, who made a radical proposal for a four and a half month closed season for club affairs.

“The subject of club fixtures has to be broadened out and cannot be re- solved without the involvement and understanding and co-operation of both the provincial council and Central Council,” O’Halloran said.

“This is a three dimensional problem that needs input from the board, the Munster Council and Central Council.

“We want to play the club championship in the summer season, we want to maintain the integrity of the provincial championships, we want the All-Ireland series.

“I propose we run the club championship between the 1st of April and the 15th of August and that there would be a closed season for club competition and that the inter-county competition would take place subsequent to the 15th of August,” he added.


‘The weather caught and TG4 killed us’

CLARE GAA is in the black, but will only remain so if costs are cut further in 2012, delegates to last Thursday’s Convention were warned as they were challenged to come up with new initiatives to boost the county board’s coffers.

County board treasurer, Bernard Keane and auditor Tony Fitzpatrick laid bare the financial facts behind the 2011 figures – the latter calling for belts to be tightened, while the former urging a “collective effort” between the top table of the board and the clubs to “keep Clare GAA above water” in 2012.

“It’s nice to finish above the line rather than below the line,” said Mr Keane, “but we had a very difficult year, but we are very happy to be above the line with a small surplus.

“Going forward we are not in a comfortable place financially in this county board. We all realise that. Over the last number of years our margins have been getting smaller, smaller and smaller.

“The fact that our income is down € 160,000 is a very worrying aspect. We can’t run away from that. We can and we will do our best to try and trim our expenditure. Expenditure are bricks in the wall the whole time and there are only so many bricks you can take off the wall before the wall crumbles on you,” he added.

The treasurer revealed that the biggest blow to the board’s financial situation, which saw the surplus for the year’s activities reduce from € 64,366 in 2010 to € 17,796 within the space of 12 months was brought about by a big drop in monies from gate receipts, locally and nationally.

“The biggest disappointment on our income side was our home games. There were various reasons for that,” Keane revealed. “During the course of year we introduced vari- ous schemes – 25 tickets, 15 tickets to help the cause.

“We got very few financially attractive replays. The biggest problem was that the patrons weren’t coming out to support the games. That’s the biggest worry.

“We noticed that in the second half of the year there was a drop off. Our county final was particularly disappointing. Our hurling final realised € 44, 580, our football final € 45,754.

“We were very disappointed with the hurling final, because we had a very attractive programme on the day, but the weather caught us and TG4 killed us. The National League was in the same vein, because patrons weren’t coming out either,” he added.

Now, in response to what county board secretary, Pat Fitzgerald has called “a bleak financial position”, Keane has called on the county club’s to become the brains behind a range of new fundraising ideas to create much-needed cash flow for the year ahead.

“Don’t anyone be under any illusions that a fundraising draw won’t happen in 2012 – it will happen because it has to happen,” said Keane. “The shape of the project, we are not sure of yet. We are waiting for submissions to come from the clubs and are waiting until the 20th of January.

“What we’re asking is that any club out there that has an idea for a fundraising scheme that would work for the county board – we would be hoping that the board would come on board with that.

“We are going to have to come up with new schemes of making money as well as enhancing the schemes that we have there. Every club will have to come on board with the fundraising project and work with that. We have to have new ideas and new brainwaves that will bring in finance.

“We’re all in this together. No one individual or no one club can save this situation. It will be all of us working positively together,” he added.

In closing the debate, auditor Tony Fitzpatrick warned that “if expenditure isn’t watched and if costs aren’t cut, we will go into the red.

“Tighten the belts and perform on the field and we will be fine,” he added.


Banner rings the alarm bell

CLARE GAA has been told to face up to the reality that “there is a problem” with the promotion of Gaelic Games in Ennis.

This alarm was sounded out by the Banner club that has called on Clare GAA to establish a committee to oversee GAA affairs in the county capital, while ensuring that Ennis Urban Board has responsibility for all players under the age of 12 – a situation that has been directly challenged by the Éire Óg decision to establish an Academy to cater for children between the ages of six and 12.

“The urban committee should control the Urban Board – the Urban Board looks after the age group from 12 down,” Banner chairman, OwenRynne told Convention.

He made his call after tabling a mo- tion that called on the Clare County Board to abide by its own rules, by implement By-Law 19 which decrees that an urban committee be established in Ennis to oversee the promotion of games within the town.

“The Banner have proposed this motion to highlight to the board that urban areas are quite complex and need specific focus put on them,” Rynne told the Convention.

“Fundamentally there are numerous distractions in an urban area that the GAA player will encounter in their playing career.

“It is the duty of the club to highlight the fact that extra emphasis must be put on promoting the GAA in urban areas such as Ennis and making sure that the GAA marketed to compete against other sports.

“The club believes that with the implementation of the By-Law 19 that this urban committee can look at issues arising with urban areas and are ready to tackle problems as they may present themselves.

“It is imperative that we get the maximum participation of youth and adults playing our national games and raising the standard of games within Ennis.

“Coiste Contae an Chláir must ensure that we maximise our efforts to promote the GAA within the Ennis urban area and the club believes that by implementing By-Law 19 the board can deal with this issue,” added the Banner delegate.

After a number of questions from Éire Óg delegate Simon Moroney and county board chairman, Michael O’Neill, who asked “what is the intention of the motion”, the Banner delegate reiterated his club’s desire for the board to implement its own bylaws.

“The urban committee should look after urban issues. The urban committee deals with urbanisation and urban issues,” he said. “It needs to be identified that there is a problem.

“The intention of the motion is simple. There are problems within urban areas and we need to tackle that within Clare and within Ennis. It’s fairly clear, we are trying to promote the GAA within an urban area,” he added. “We appointed PJ Fitzpatrick recently to look into the overall Ennis situation in relation to The Banner, Éire Óg and Urban Board,” said chairman, Michael O’Neill.

“Until such time as PJ, and I know that he is close to coming up with his findings on that, we will hold off. Whenever that happens, we’ll leave it until those findings are available to us,” added the chairman.


Ennis is a ‘luxury’ for Clare GAA

THERE should be as many as four adult clubs in Ennis – Clare’s county capital that has been described as “a luxury the GAA can’t afford anymore”.

Stinging criticism of the current state of health of Gaelic games in the capital was sounded out by Ruan delegate, Ger Lyons, who called for the Clare County Board to spearhead a new direction for promotion of GAA affairs in the centre of population.

“This is a subject for a whole meeting in itself,” said Lyons. “The whole town of Ennis is a luxury that the GAA can’t afford anymore.

“If you look at Killarney and Tralee – they all have two or three functioning clubs at senior level. I acknowledge the effort that’s being done by Éire Óg, but with the population – Ennis has gone so big and that we have to grasp the nettle, sooner rather than later and stop pussy footing around. There should be three or four clubs in the town of Ennis that can survive and function,” he added.

And, in calling for change, Lyons highlighted the fact that many attempts at tackling the promotion of GAA in Ennis have failed.

“There has been a lot of resources put into in Ennis and initiatives have gone so far but then all of a sudden they fall apart. They go so far that then it stops,” he said.

“We (Ruan) have been associated with The Banner and there have been some fantastic hurlers there but a lot of them have fallen by the wayside. That’s sad and I think the GAA in Clare cannot afford the luxury of Ennis the way it is.

“There has been too much standing aside and it needs a lot of leadership and a longer discussion. My main point is that there should be a lot more units in the town of Ennis. Ennis is not a small place anymore,” he added.


Moroney defends Éire Óg Academy

FORMER county board secretary Simon Moroney used the platform of last Thursday’s annual Convention to make a staunch defence of the Éire Óg underage Academy that has put the Ennis club at loggerheads with the Clare GAA leaders over the past two years.

Moroney, who is also a former secretary of Éire Óg, said the Academy that caters for children between the ages of six and 12, has “mobilised excellent coaches” and is the way forward for the club.

He made his comments in response to a motion for the Banner club that called on the county board to establish a committee that would be responsibility for managing GAA affairs in Ennis.

“It’s far more complex than implementing By-Law 19. It needs a lot more consideration,” said Moroney. “Ennis does require attention, but it should be started organically between the clubs and the clubs themselves must get up off the floor and promote it in a much better fashion.

“The Éire Óg would totally go along with the sentiment of improving the standard and levels of participation of GAA in Ennis.

“We would totally agree that the promotion of the GAA in an urban context would present a lot more difficulties and frustrations.

“It is true to say that in urban populations there isn’t as great a penetration for our games as would exist in country places where identity is so bound to the local place and is so strong. It is far more difficult with other codes.

“The club has started working much harder with the Academy. Without slapping our own club on the back, it has been extremely successful and it has mobilised excellent coaches and people who want to learn the coaching trade.

“We have put in place a Child Protection Officer and everything like that and we’ve lucky to get over 200 kids over 18 months two years now.

“We feel the answer to the problem in Ennis lies with strengthening the clubs and assisting the urban clubs in being able to give the proper service to all the youth and maximising the participation of all the youth in the town,” added Moroney (below).