CHAIRMAN’S ADDRESS Mayo GAA chairman Mike Connelly is pictured speaking to the audience at the inaugural Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation Gala in New York recently.
THE formation of the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, which hosted a black tie fund-raising dinner in New York on Friday week last, has been described as ‘a big game-changer’ by County Board chairman, Mike Connelly.
More than 300 people attended the $10,000-a-table event at the Cipriani Broadway in Manhattan, with another $50,000 raised by an auction on the night.
Connelly said that the very impressively-organised gala brought fund-raising to ‘another level’ for Mayo GAA, and he thanked the founder of the new foundation, Tim O’Leary, as well as committee members, Richard Chambers, Kevin O’Neill, Eugene Rooney and Terry Gallagher for organising the inaugural event.
Connelly described Mr O’Leary as ‘one of the greatest Mayo supporters of all time’ and hailed his dedication and financial support for Mayo GAA in recent years.
The County Board chairman also paid tribute to the senior football team management and players, with 20 members of the current squad in attendance at the banquet.
“There’s a real buzz around Mayo GAA at the moment,” said Connelly.
“We’re absolutely delighted to see James [Horan] back in as manager. He’s brought a freshness to the set-up. The one thing I’m absolutely delighted about is that all the people in the set-up are Mayo people. And the other thing I’d say is that he brought in a lot of new players, that’s added a lot of spice to this team. And we find ourselves in a very good place.
“If somebody said to us back in July that we’d win a National League in 2019, I’d have said they were mad. And I want to compliment James, his team, his backroom team and the players for what they have done.
“This is a very exciting year for us, we have the National League trophy here, and we’d really like to partner it with Sam Maguire. But we’re not going to get carried away, we’re going to take it one game at a time.”
All the monies raised by the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation are to be allocated to ‘strategic projects’, the audience were told by Tim O’Leary, whose mother, Margaret, is a native of Newport.
Describing the gala as ‘a very special and unique event in the history of Mayo GAA’, the foundation’s chairman said its objective was: ‘to help harness global support, provide financial support for strategic projects like the Training Centre in Castlebar, the new underage [Mayo GAA] Academy, and support to James [Horan] and his team’.
“Our foundation’s objective is to harness the global support, and help the team and the Board to make Mayo the number one team in Ireland,” explained Mr O’Leary.
He also thanked Mike Connelly for ‘facilitating’ the foundation in organising the event.
The Mayo GAA chairman went on to explain why the proposed plans for the Training Centre in Castlebar — which were first announced almost nine months ago — were so important.
“We are embarking on a huge investment in Mayo in relation to our Training Centre, and it’s a big project we’re embarking on. It’s important that we can provide the facilities to enable us to progress.
“We’re very fortunate to have Mayo County Council, headed by the CEO Peter Hynes, and his team, who are very supportive of what we’re doing.
“Again we’re very fortunate to have Lough Lannagh that has already got a lot of facilities, the swimming pool was opened last week, there’s a tennis club there, a boxing club, accommodation for 150-odd people, and we’re going to be the next piece that’s going to be added to this. It’s going to be a big sporting hub in Castlebar.
“These training facilities are not just for development squads, but for teams of the future. It’s really important that we give them facilities to allow them to match the Kerrys of this world,” he added.
“We are focussing on the grassroots, and we’re delighted to have Austin O’Malley [Mayo GAA Academy Director] and Liam Moffatt [Mayo GAA Coaching Officer] here tonight, who are heading up our whole development squads piece.
“We’ve got a lot of past players involved, the likes of Ciaran McDonald, David Heaney and so on who are looking after our academies, and that’s hugely important to continue the progress we have made, and to build on the success of the current crop.”