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Moygownagh, Ardagh and the amalgamation problem

Two clubs and one big row

Mike Finnerty looks at some of the key questions after last week’s stand-off between the top table and two North Mayo clubs at the County Convention

What is this row all about?
THAT’S a good question. All we know for certain is that last November, Ardagh and Moygownagh GAA clubs decided they wanted to amalgamate — but only if the amalgamation was for football purposes only.
Neither club had any interest in losing their independence, or surrendering any rights they had in relation to property, assets, identity or votes. They just wanted to come together under the ‘Ardmoy’ banner to give their players a chance to play some competitive football.
Both the Ardagh Chairman, Martin Carr, and the Moygownagh Chairman, Padraig Staunton, told the Mayo GAA Convention in no uncertain terms last Monday night that this was the case.
They also told the assembled delegates and media that they had informed Sean Feeney and Paddy Muldoon [Mayo’s delegate to Central Council] last November that they had “absolutely no interest” in amalgamating if their respective clubs lost their individual status.
Padraig Staunton said that after a meeting with Feeney and Muldoon, both clubs had been sent a letter with a “ten-point plan” that was signed by Seán Feeney and confirmed that the amalgamation was for “competition purposes only.”
He also said that neither Mr Feeney or Mr Muldoon mentioned anything about losing voting rights or diluting either club’s status last November.
So, why the big problem?
BECAUSE the GAA rulebook is very clear when it comes to amalgamations. Clubs either amalgamate 100%, or not at all (see the box below). What Ardagh and Moygownagh GAA clubs wanted to do (and they say they were told, could do) is not possible under GAA law.
“The County Board put an agreement in place with the clubs,” said Padraig Staunton. “Now they’ve realised they can’t stand over that agreement and they’re trying to scapegoat the clubs. They couldn’t stand up, acknowledge they did something wrong, and sit down with us and try and sort it out.”
What are the County Board saying?
ON a number of occasions last Monday night, Sean Feeney referred to an e-mail that he had received from Croke Park clarifying the GAA’s ruling on amalgamations. That states clearly that two amalgamated clubs become one in every sense in the eyes of the GAA.
“It’s a very complicated, complex issue and what happened last Monday night was very unfortunate,” said Feeney. He also said it seemed that the clubs had “misunderstood” the terms of the amalgamation.
So, why are the clubs complaining?
THEY are furious because they say they were told, “in good faith” late last year by the Mayo GAA Secretary and Mayo’s delegate to Central Council that they could amalgamate for football purposes only. After those assurances, Ardagh and Moygownagh GAA clubs both held meetings where 75% of their members decided to support an amalgamation on the basis that both clubs would continue to exist in the eyes of the GAA.
“How dare the County Secretary insult the intelligence and integrity of the groups from Ardagh and Moygownagh that went to meet him last year,” said Padraig Staunton.
Did an issue not arise during the year?
NO, and this is the interesting part. During the year both clubs were treated as separate entities on a number of occasions by the Mayo GAA Board.
Both were given 45 tickets each to sell for the Mayo GAA Development Draw, both club secretaries received separate correspondence for County Board meetings, both clubs received separate ticket allocations for Mayo matches in the championship, and both clubs were also allowed to vote in an election for a position to the Mayo GAA Executive.
Ironically, both clubs were also given separate tables at Convention on Monday night too. The fact that Ardagh were sitting at the top of the room, and Moygownagh at the bottom, only added to the sense of farce.
So, who is to blame for this mess?
NOW that is the $64,000 question. Both Ardagh and Moygownagh GAA clubs are laying the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the Mayo GAA Board.
Both Martin Carr and Padraig Staunton say that they are 100% clear on what they were told by Mayo GAA officials, and that they were “guaranteed” that amalgamation would not affect either club’s rights when it came to voting. However, neither Sean Feeney or Paddy Muldoon conceded that this was the case.
What’s going to happen now?
WHO knows? It looks like both clubs will have to sit down with the Mayo GAA Board and start talking again. But, one thing is for certain, the GAA’s Official Guide is very black and white on the issue. Everything else is clear as mud.

Amalgamation of Clubs

“A resolution to amalgamate two or more Clubs shall be passed only at General Meetings of the Clubs concerned, specially summoned for the purpose of such resolution, if supported at each of the respective meetings by not less than three quarters of those present, entitled to vote and voting.
Upon such amalgamation, all property, assets and liabilities of the Clubs involved shall be transferred to and vested in the Amalgamated Club.
The players of the Clubs involved shall be deemed to be players of the Amalgamated Club.
Any decision to amalgamate clubs shall be subject to the approval of the County Committee.”

Rule 29
2008 GAA Official Guide