Chairman’s Address to Convention

December 15th, 2010

Tonight we close the most successful decade in Tyrone’s History, a decade which holds wonderful memories for Tyrone Gaels the world over. We all look forward to the new decade with enthusiasm and renewed determination to keep Cumann Luchleas Gael Tyrone at the forefront of all facets of the Association.

In 2011 Emigration will undoubtedly be a major factor for Tyrone Clubs. The worsening economic situation will only serve to heighten the number of our young people leaving this island in search of employment. Already, many clubs have lost young members to far off lands and in 2011, our clubs are going to be under more pressure as the reality of this renewed emigration bites and many clubs lose even more personnel. We must all work together to ensure our club units are not weakened in the midst of spiralling emigration.

The club unit is the base upon which Cumann Luchleas Gael is built. Without clubs the organisation would not have developed to the strong position it now holds in Ireland and for Irish people across the globe. I will be asking our incoming Development Committee to work with all incoming club committees to review their structures. A properly structured club with the right person in the right job is vital, especially when the number of people involved is ever dwindling. We need to ensure the workload in clubs is shared and that everyone who wants to be involved gets the chance.  Club Maith is the accredited standard to attain and the Development Committee will work with all clubs to review structures and processes are compatible with Club Maith, ensure workload is shared and new volunteers recruited.  Your officer posts should be filled by trained officers and Tyrone’s 2011 club officer training programme is on 8 January 2011, details are on the County website.

We can’t lose sight of the fact that our Clubs are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves. Our clubs are increasingly pressurised financially.  I will be instigating a review of expenditure with the aim of a reduction across all our activities to ensure the burden on our clubs is not increased. When this review is complete the incoming Finance and County Committees will have to carefully scrutinise the figures to ensure strict controls are in place.  Having listened first hand to some of the clubs faced with high fees in March past, I will also be instigating a view of the structure currently used to calculate fees to decide if the system currently in use is the fairest. As an rúnaí has pointed out in his report, insurance premiums are the key to lower fees. Thus I will add a note of caution to this review; the number of claims in Tyrone and the insurance payments received in this County are evidence that Tir Eoghain will continue to be high on the list when the levies are set nationally for Counties. However I do ask Croke Park to attempt to reduce the insurance levy placed on our County. Failure to reduce this levy will eventually bring some of our clubs to the brink of folding and I urge a radical review for the sake of all units across CLG.  If this cannot be done then a transparent process explained to every club is essential to help our clubs understand the levy on the Association as a whole and ultimately on their club.

Whilst recognising the pressure on all clubs I’m still hoping that the few clubs still not signed up as Garvaghey Patrons will join the vast majority who have. I hope that you will see that the Garvaghey project is for us all. When the project is complete it will be available for all clubs, schools and county teams and will stand the test of time for future generations. In mentioning patrons, I highlight the very significant fundraising in the first year of the Garvaghey Patronage. The funds raised are testament to the support of Tyrone people all over this County and Tyrone people further afield. As I mentioned already, in the grip of a harsh economic climate, the vast majority of clubs have also joined as Patrons and, on behalf of the County Committee I thank all patrons, over 150 and still rising, for their support.

The Garvaghey project has already been reported on tonight by Committee Chairman Liam Nelis. The work is ongoing to make the Centre what all of us want; the Excellent Centre of Tyrone GAA; at present, our plan is to open on a very significant date for Tyrone, 28 September 2013.  In remembering that Tyrone GAA is for all the family we are ensuring the Centre will cater for all clubs, schools and county teams across the GAA community of men and women. In the 21stcentury Tyrone will take the lead and say to those nationally that the GAA family can no longer remain split. The GAA is a family and the powerbrokers in Croke Park, CLG, Cumann Peil nBán and Camogie must listen to us in Tyrone, take our lead and integrate. In 2011 we in Tyrone will for the first time, attempt a County Fixtures plan for football, hurling, camogie. This process will undoubtedly be helped by the appointment of my fellow Strabane club member Martin Conway to the Chairpersons post in the Ladies Board, maith thú Martin

In 2011, the CCC will ensure the Fixtures plan will be made early and with everyone’s buy in will be adhered to. This will be helped by our newly appointed Fixtures planners, Patsy Hetherington and Aidy O’Kane, whose job is to identify, on behalf of all clubs, issues that arose in 2010 and to help address them in the Fixtures plan for the incoming season. An integrated plan will aim to avoid fixtures clashes and other situations which arose in 2010 will, in future, be avoided. Additionally, I want to review all our competitions and involve you, our clubs, in deciding if there is a better format. For this piece of work I will be implementing a small workgroup led by our Fixtures Planners to report back by Autumn of 2011.

When talking about games, Youth & Coaching are very much to the fore for us all.  I believe the club with active Youth / Coaching Officer (s) will be the club who will reap the most reward.  To try to help every club to progress further in these areas I will be asking the incoming Youth Committee to produce a Youth Development Plan for the County which in turn clubs will feed into. Its aim will be to pinpoint the issues clubs face in retaining young people and what more we can do to ensure our youth are continually attracted to our games.  Following this, our Coaching Committee will be asked to address the barriers facing our coaches as they address issues identified from the YDP. Most coaches get involved as they believe they can make a difference. What we will aim to do is assist them to achieve this goal – in Tyrone that will involve a Development Squad of coaches which will be led by our Games Promotion Officer and County Senior Trainer Fergal McCann.  Similarly, I will also be asking our Referees Committee to look into a similar Development Squad of referees in the 20-25 age bracket with the aim of producing a batch of young referees wishing to progress and assisting them in that aim. In mentioning referee’s I condemn totally the scenes at the end of the Leinster Final. Whilst acknowledging the anguish the County of Louth faced at the final whistle, those supporters who attacked our own Martin Sludden have no place in the association.

In 2010, I set up an Urban Development committee to look at the challenge of Increasing Participation in our towns. Disappointingly several clubs have yet to make contact with the committee. In 2011 I will ask this committee to visit those clubs who took up the offer of assistance in 2010. This committee will focus on those clubs who want help and thus I urge those clubs still to make contact to do so.

A key area identified by the urban clubs visited is the need for Information Technology & Communications to be better utilised. Indeed in the 21st century we can no longer work efficiently without email, texts and the other communication means such as Facebook etc.  The incoming IT committee will be tasked with ensuring all clubs are familiar with the Servasport system and its benefits for communications across clubs. In mentioning Servasport and Membership last week’s news of a security breach at Servasport continues to cause concern. Whatever the circumstances the breach is inexcusable. The matter is being investigated and I hope that the information copied and posted is found to be the only breach. Whatever the outcome, all members must be informed immediately. In the meantime, any member concerned regarding their own details should contact their club secretary.

I cannot conclude on IT without mentioning our website. The website revamp in 2010 has been exceptionally well received and in 2011 the IT and CCC Committees will review the website to ensure all Fixtures & results sections are readily available, easily accessible and updated regularly.

For 2011, the Communications committee have plans to recommence the weekly news letter. Our newspapers have indicated a willingness to publicise the newsletter and the finer detail of this arrangement will be worked out early in 2011.  This will see the very best of Tyrone activity in our clubs and our county publicised through all systems of communication and regularly to Tyrone folk across the world on the web. For example, the website was able to display to the world the national awards presented to some of our volunteers for their ongoing commitment to CLG. In Culture Donal Magee and Cliodhna Kerr were recipients on behalf of the Coiste of an award from the Náisúnta na Gaeilge for their excellent work in the promotion of the Language.  From our PR and Marketing Committee member Patsy Forbes and our Handball Board Treasurer Sean Clarke both received Presidential Awards. Maith thu Donal, Cliodhna, Patsy agus Sean .

When we think of Culture, our heritage is very close. For some Tyrone Gaels our ancestry is very much to the fore in our national game of Hurling. In fact Sion Mills, where I reside, is mentioned in the history books for its hurling activity in the early 1900’s. Our Hurling Clubs will tonight for the first time have a dedicated Hurling Officer and this person’s role cannot be understated. The new Tyrone Hurling Officer will have to lead from the front in reinvigorating Tyrone Hurling. Hurling reached its lowest ebb in 2010 and unless the slide is arrested in the incoming year, Hurling in Tyrone will eventually cease to exist. The early signs of a renewed enthusiasm is encouraging, only time will tell. Of course, to encourage and maintain this impetus will require resources.

In the current economic climate, the managing of those resources and indeed resources across all areas will require extreme diligence. As I have already stated, a review of spend in the past year will establish areas were we can become more prudent in 2011. Our resources would be lessened and our financial situation would be much more precarious if we didn’t have sponsors. From May 2010, as you are all aware we have new County Jersey sponsors in Target Express. Seamus McBrien willingly took up the offer and since then we have been able to deliver a very public appreciation of our thanks to him by ensuring the Target Express jersey was on display in Croke Pk on All-Ireland Final day.  Seamus, I hope it’s a good omen for us all. I also thank Kieran Kennedy of O’Neills Sportswear for his very strong commitment to Tyrone GAA.  Go raibh maith agat Seamus agus Kieran and to all our sponsors, club and County.  I urge you all to reciprocate the support shown by all sponsors in your club and in the County, and support sponsors whenever possible.

All-Ireland day provided another Minor title for Tyrone, and following on from the success of 2008 has provides Raymond at U21 and Mickey with a huge pool of talent to select from moving forward. On the day, the winning of the Tom Markham was marred somewhat when instead of a speech from our victorious Captain, Shea, we were treated to music! I am sure most of you will agree that change is good, but depriving next years winning captains hurling and football, whoever they might be, of the opportunity to speak is one I would urge Christy Cooney not to repeat.

In 2010, our Minor Hurlers also won a C title and these victories at Minor level encourage us all for the future. Add in the winning of another Ulster Senior Title which is never easy, the Ladies reaching an historic first All-Ireland final, the Camog’s winning the National Division 4 and the Handball AlI-Ireland champions and 2010 wasn’t too bad a year!  Well done to all managers and players and backroom teams involved. I also offer congratulations to Cookstown on their All-Ireland Intermediate success, Naomh ColumCille on their achievement in reaching the All-Ireland Junior Final and I extend best wishes to Omagh Ladies for their replay on Saturday next.

I mentioned our Senior’s winning an Ulster Title and we all know that the team just didn’t get the luck necessary against Dublin. We all recognise that teams can have off days, however the fact that 28 counties still get a chance to correct their off day and four don’t still leaves an anomaly that has not been addressed. We proposed this motion at Congress in 2010 and thus any comment about sour grapes cannot be used. Further, any argument about extra fixtures is easily challenged as 1 extra weekend at the start of August would not seriously impact on the Club fixture schedule for any County.    Provincial winners deserve to have an incentive and winning a Provincial title is a magnificent achievement and one we are very proud of in Tir Eoghain. I call on the Association at a National level to ensure that our Provincial championships value is not diluted by ensuring all teams are treated equally.

In 2010 for the first time our 4 councils celebrated the successes I have just outlined by holding a landmark joint Council function for the GAA in County Tyrone. For making the occasion happen I pay particular thanks to the Cathaiorleigh of Councils, Michelle O’Neill Declan McAleer John McNamee and Michaela Boyle.  Over the past 12 months Omagh and Dungannon Councils have supported our Garvaghey Project; Cookstown have employed a GAA games promotion officer, Omagh Council has passed a Games Promotion Officer post and I am in talks with Dungannon to achieve a similar outcome. I hope that very soon in the New Year that Cookstown and Strabane Councils will find a way to support the Garvaghey project and Strabane DC will support the Coaching initiative, thus maintaining the 4 Council’s collaborative approach to Tyrone GAA into 2011.

In 2010 Tir Eoghain County Committee actively supported the Ulster Council’s Road Safety Campaign.  Although it is very difficult to quantify the effect of the campaign, if it saves even one life or makes one young driver more safety conscious then it will have been worth doing.  Tyrone GAA members and their families have suffered many, many times through Road accidents / incidents, and tonight I ask that you remember in your prayers all those who have passed on to their eternal reward as result. Remember all those members listed in an rúnaí’s report and the very sad passing of Andrew O’Neill Naomh ColumCille, whose funeral was just yesterday.

The County Strategic Plan review conducted in October gave me the opportunity to review our progress against the report. Analysis has demonstrated that the targets in the report have been 80% achieved and that is a massive indication of the ongoing work in the units in Tyrone. In 2011 a re-constituted Strategic Review Committee will follow up the report to establish new targets for 2011 and to start the consultation process for the new report due in 2013. From the review, it is apparent that a key objective for 2011 will be to refocus the incoming County Committee’s role as decision makers for the County. The County Committee has become somewhat diluted and I want to ensure that the incoming Committee will assume full responsibility for decisions made. How that will be achieved will be addressed at the first meeting of the new Committee on Tuesday 11 January.

In finishing I hope that by the end of 2011 I will be able to address you all with a new set of targets after all those I have discussed tonight for 2011 are met by the incoming sub-committees. I will be meeting the newly elected officers directly after this meeting concludes commence the process of reappointing sub-committees. This process will be completed by the first County Committee meeting on 11th. Some changes are inevitable and for now I thank everyone who assisted with the running of our County’s activities in 2010.

To conclude then, I wish you all the very best as you go forward making plans for 2011 for your club and can I take this opportunity to wish all of you present, the members of the clubs in Tyrone, all their families and Tyrone Gaels everywhere  a very peaceful Christmas Holiday. Enjoy the break