POPULAR Westport woman Ann Baynes was crowned ‘Mayo GAA Person of the Year’ last week after raising an impressive €26,133 for the County Board’s coffers following a series of successful fundraisers.
A clever initiative by the Mayo County Board saw a competition run between six of the most dedicated GAA supporters in the county over the last six months before Ann Baynes, a former secretary of Westport GAA club, finished top of the pile.
The Drummin native saw off Tony Basquill from Aghagower in an exciting climax by just €953 in the end.
However, her ultimate victory was no more than Ann Baynes deserved as members of her campaign team revealed that she ‘spent morning, noon and night’ trying to raise money for the Mayo GAA cause.
But she was quick to deflect praise onto her backroom team who helped her every step of the way.
“I had brilliant people working with me,” Ann told The Mayo News last night.
“My committee consisted of people like Seán Langan, Seamus Moran, John Joe Lally, George Golden, Peter Reynolds, Willie Kelly, Padraig and Kevin Barrett and Paddy Muldoon. They all put in tremendous effort and it was thanks to them that I ended up winning.”
Baynes’ fundraising events began with a barn dance back in September that raised €1,300 and got the ball rolling. Next up was a table quiz, then a fashion show, followed by two card games at the Clock Tavern. A ‘Sale Of Work’ concluded her fund-raising efforts on December 4.
Reflecting back on all those events, Ann Baynes had no hesitation in singling out the fashion show, that was held in the Castlecourt Hotel, Westport on November 24, as her most successful venture.
“The fashion show was a huge success. We raised over €5,000 on it alone. We had a full house in the Castlecourt and everybody had a great night. To raise so much money in one night was just fantastic and it gave us the drive to go on and raise even more.”
Remarkably, the newly-crowned Mayo GAA ‘Person of the Year’ was a reluctant runner in the race.
After being nominated by her club, she was aware of how time consuming the task ahead would be. But, not for the first time, she put her county before herself, rolled up her sleeves, and got down to work.
“It was great to be nominated but I wasn’t really sure whether to go ahead with it or not,” admitted Ann. “But then I realised the support that I had behind me so I said I’d give it a go and thankfully it paid off.
“What stuck me most in the last couple of months was how generous people can be. We got no corporate funding whatsoever and it was just bits and pieces built up over the couple of months. But it was a full-time job.
“Day and night we were trying to think of new ideas of how to raise money and what way to go about it.
“It was a challenge, but it was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed,” she added. “It’s a pity that some of the money that we raised couldn’t go to my home club Westport but, look, it was great to raise so much money for the county. I’m sure every penny will come in handy.”
Baynes is an avid follower of Mayo and remembers, back in 1997, organising a bus to go from ‘John Maughan’s’ pub in Westport to every away National League match. It’s a trend that has continued through the years.
The other candidates in the Mayo GAA ‘Person of the Year’ race were the aforementioned Tony Basquill, Tommy Goonan, Peter Geraghty, Peadar Higgins, Liam Ludden and Margaret Bolton.
Over €100,000 is believed to have been raised in total.