WITH approximately 500 season tickets already sold, it was no surprise that the mood at last Saturday evening’s Cáirde Mhaigheo launch at McHale Park, Castlebar was decidedly upbeat.
The new Mayo GAA Supporters’ Club (which incorporates Club Mayo organisations in Dublin, London, America and in Mayo itself) got off to a very positive start with a large crowd turning out to show their support for the new ‘umbrella’ group.
Cáirde Mhaigheo aims to raise approximately €150,000 from various fund-raising initiatives in 2012 and have targetted 1,000 season ticket sales this year.
Among the attendance at An Sportlann last weekend were former Mayo senior managers, Pat Holmes, John Maughan and John O’Mahony, as well as current boss, James Horan, and Ray Dempsey and Tony Duffy, the county’s U-21 and minor football managers.
Past Mayo players like Noel Connelly, Willie Joe Padden and ‘Jinkin’ Joe Corcoran were also in attendance while club representatives from North, South, East and West also turned out to hear more about Cáirde Mhaigheo’s plans.
The tone of the night was illustrated by Michael Ring T.D. (Minister of State at the Department of Tourism and Sport).
Mr Ring paid tribute to the volunteers who give of their team to coach and promote the GAA in the county and also had nothing but praise for the Mayo GAA officials, past and present, who decided to develop McHale Park.
He also lauded the state-of-the-art facilities in Castlebar.
“Sometimes we beat ourselves up as a county and as a country,” he commented. “We don’t give ourselves credit for what we have.
“There is so much thought of Mayo GAA, particularly outside the country. In America, France, or what corner of the world I’ve been in, I meet Mayo people. And the first thing they ask, and I’m sorry for putting the pressure on you James [Horan], is: ‘when are we going to win the All-Ireland?’
“They love Mayo, they love their county and their football.”
The Westport native, who obviously made a big impression on the audience with his passionate delivery, also finished on a determined note.
“We’re in difficult economic times but there’s never a good time to collect money. . . But the money will be raised if everybody works together.”
This was a theme that was continued by James Horan. The Mayo senior manager began by quoting England’s rugby World Cup winning coach, Clive Woodward.
“He said, ‘This team was successful because everyone involved had their noses pointing the one way’. If you apply that to Mayo GAA, I think Cáirde Mhaigheo, the County Board, clubs, people who support Mayo teams, underage teams, National School, the whole lot, we all have to go the same way,” said Horan.
“We have to support the development of Mayo football at underage and senior level. Cairde Mhugheo is a step forward and will be of huge benefit.”
Meanwhile, County Board Chairman, Paddy McNicholas, thanked the founding members of Cáirde Mhaigheo (Kevin O’Toole, Mike Connelly, Brendan Byrne and Michael Diskin) and also commended the former officers of the Board who showed ‘the vision’ to buy the stadium and develop it.
“I hope everybody realises what they did because it will be there for many years, after we’re all gone,” commented McNicholas.
He also had this message for those present. “Let you be the people to spread the Gospel and let others know about the benefits of the season ticket.”
Mike Connelly, Mayo GAA Board Vice-Chairman, outlined the thinking behind the formation of Cáirde Mhaigheo last month.
“We discussed how we could improve the way we run our affairs as a County Board, not just in terms of finance and fund-raising, but across the board,” he explained.
“We felt we needed to improve things for the businesses that support the GAA and improve things for the supporters who put their hands into their pockets.
“We also felt we needed to communicate better with the businesses and supporters that support us. We identified that value for money was going to be very important in whatever idea we came up with.”
“McHale Park is one of the best stadiums in the country outside of Croke Park,” he added.
Connelly also confirmed that all patrons who purchase Mayo GAA season tickets will receive €100 worth of ‘discount vouchers’ from five local businesses — Elverys Sports, C&C Cellular, Corrib Oil, Albany and Connacht Gold.