TAKING A STAND Former Mayo GAA Board chairman Mike Connelly (centre) is pictured trying to address last Thursday evening’s meeting of club delegates to the County Board at MacHale Park in Castlebar. Pic: Conor McKeown
Edwin McGreal and Michael Gallagher
The ongoing saga involving a proposed €5 million collaborative Mayo County Council/Mayo GAA Training Centre at Lough Lannagh in Castlebar took a bizarre twist last week.
Former Mayo GAA Chairman Mike Connelly – who was one of the main driving forces behind the project when it was announced three years ago – attended last Thursday evening’s Mayo GAA Board meeting at MacHale Park in Castlebar and attempted to speak on the issue of the Lough Lannagh project.
However, he was prevented from doing so by his successor as chairman, Liam Moffatt, who said that under GAA rule Connelly did not have speaking rights at the meeting, as he is neither a current officer of Mayo GAA nor an elected club delegate.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Mike Connelly said not being allowed to speak was ‘a massive insult’.
The 27-acre €5 million facility was jointly announced by Mayo GAA and Mayo County Council in June, 2018. The three-pitch facility was described as one which would be used by county football and hurling teams at all levels and also accessible by high performance teams staying in the nearby Lough Lannagh Holiday Village.
Speaking on Thursday night, when he attempted to address the monthly meeting of the Mayo GAA Board, Connelly said he was there ‘in a council capacity’, adding he had received calls from ‘a number of councillors’ about the project.
He said he wanted to know if Mayo GAA ‘could make a decision on whether you’re going to run with the project or not’, asking Moffatt to ‘give the council respect’.
Liam Moffatt told Mike Connelly repeatedly that he was not permitted to speak at the meeting and was ‘out of order’. He added he was ‘happy to meet’ Connelly ‘after the meeting with any officers you want and address any concerns that you have’.
Moffatt closed the meeting at that point.
Subsequent statements from both Mayo County Council and Mayo GAA confirmed that talks are ongoing between both parties but there is no clear indication as to what the future holds for the project.
In response to a query from The Mayo News as to Mayo County Council’s position on Lough Lannagh, Kevin Kelly, the new Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, stated that following a request from councillors for an update at the July meeting of Mayo County Council, he has met with Mayo GAA subsequently and will meet them again in late August/early September and update councillors at the monthly meeting on September 13.
Mayo GAA also issued a statement on the matter yesterday (Monday), following on from a similar statement in recent weeks.
“Mayo GAA recognises the value of the project and recently met with the new Chief Executive of Mayo County Council to discuss all relevant aspects. We intend to meet again in late August/early September and updates will be provided as and when available,” they stated.
Following last Thursday evening’s Mayo GAA meeting, Mike Connelly also issued a statement, an abridged version of which appears here:
“As you may well be aware I attended the Mayo GAA County Board meeting for one main reason - to speak about the development of a Mayo Training Centre at Lough Lannagh, Castlebar.
“Going to the meeting I was aware of the rules at county board meetings, if you are not a delegate you can’t speak. However, as I was Mayo County Board Chairman for five years, vice-chairman for the previous five years, Bord na nÓg chairman for the five years before that, along with being involved in achieving numerous projects, including creating season tickets for the best supporters in the country, reducing the bank payments, securing All-Ireland tickets for past players, and restructuring the development squad players and management to mention but a few, to my amazement I was told by the chairman I couldn’t speak at the meeting.
“This was a massive insult to me after all my years up and down to Castlebar, travelling all over the county and country … I also want to say this that during these 15 years, when it came to expenses you will never find a bill from me for the 15 years I held office in my three roles.
“Developing a Training Centre for Mayo GAA was my goal, and we did that with the support of Mayo County Council … We located ground in Lough Lannagh in the centre of Castlebar which is almost centre to the whole county. We also recruited a commercial manager to support this project …
“Now the present chairman is dragging his feet in giving an answer to Mayo County Council regarding where they stand presently with this project …
“All I wanted to do at last Thursday night’s meeting was to ask the chairman to give Mayo County Council the respect they deserve and tell them if they are going to go ahead with the project or not. That was all I wanted to speak on at the meeting. It was just out of pure respect to the people who are and have been very good to Mayo GAA,” he stated.