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Mayo GAA chairman calls on Croke Park to support ‘firefighting’ County Boards


PRESSURE POINTS Mayo GAA chairman Mike Connelly says that County Board officials are 'under serious serious pressure to keep the show on the road'.

Mike Finnerty

GAA CHIEFS in Croke Park need to do more to ‘support’ and ‘communicate’ with County Boards who are ’struggling’ and ‘firefighting’, according to Mayo GAA chairman, Mike Connelly.
Connelly also claimed that Mayo GAA ‘can’t afford to lose a great supporter like Tim O’Leary’, the chairman of the Mayo GAA International Supporters Foundation, which is currently withholding €250,000 in funding from the County Board at the moment.
Connelly made his remarks when he spoke to local journalists following last week’s meeting of County Board club delegates in Castlebar, in response to questions that had arisen from a statement issued by the Mayo GAA International Supporters’ Foundation.
The Foundation, which was founded by Tim O’Leary earlier this year, circulated an e-mail to all Mayo GAA clubs last Tuesday evening.
The statement was extremely critical of a number of aspects of the County Board’s practices, and the Foundation said they had ‘ceased funding to Mayo County Board until appropriate governance structures are put in place’.
“There’s no point in saying any different, relations have probably become a little bit fractured,” admitted Mike Connelly to The Mayo News.
“But over the next few months we’ll put that to bed and we’ll sort it out.
“We can’t afford to lose the likes of Tim O’Leary, who’s a great supporter, and hugely passionate about Mayo GAA. Over the next few months we’ll hopefully sort all those problems out and we’ll move on. That’s the way I see it.
“Whatever topics have been raised, they need to be addressed,” he continued.
“I met with Tim three weeks ago, we had agreed on how we would be working going forward, and the Commercial Manager [Tom Reilly] now is the man looking after the financial piece, which is a massive help to us.
“So he’s the man who should take over all that responsibility on behalf of Mayo GAA.
“That was the whole reason behind bringing in Tom, so that every day he gets up it’s about raising finance for Mayo GAA. That will simplify and streamline the whole thing, and take a lot of people out of the equation.
“If you look at the football scene today versus 20 years ago, when players weren’t being paid [expenses], we didn’t have Cul Camps. . . it was a much simpler organisation,” continued Connelly, whose five-year term as Mayo GAA chairman comes to an end in December.
“And if you look at the structure of the County Board today, versus 20 years ago, it’s no different.
“At the end of the day, we haven’t moved the structures.
“I feel it’s a big problem from Croke Park down, there’s no communication or support from Croke Park to say, ‘Hold on a minute, you guys are turning over €4m, you’ve an [office] administrator’.
“Sure there are businesses with a €3m/€4m turnover that have five, six, seven or eight people working in them. We recognise that.
“I would consider that one of the biggest things I have done in my five years [as County Board chairman] was to bring in a Commercial Manager, because I can see, even in a short space of time, the fruits of it. And you will see that yourselves in the next three to four weeks.
“But officers today are under serious serious pressure just to keep the whole show running.
“We’re talking now about Child Protection, Garda Vetting. . you didn’t have these things 20 years ago.
“We have social media now which is the biggest problem for us all. We do recognise that we are going to have to change the structure within the Board, because we’re just not able to keep on top of it.
“We’re all voluntary people, we all have to get up in the morning at 7am and go and do a job of work. I’m here [in MacHale Park] three or four nights a week, and we’re firefighting, that’s the reality.”
Last week’s statement from the Mayo GAA International Supporters’ Foundation said that the organisation ‘currently holds €250,000 in cash which it wishes to release to Mayo GAA’ — once the corporate governance terms set out in an e-mail to Mr Connelly last April were met.
A copy of this e-mail, which was signed by Mr O’Leary, was also circulated to all Mayo GAA clubs this week. It explained that monies raised by the Foundation would only be released once they saw ‘full transparency in how the funds were allocated’ and that ‘there was strong governance around each project’.
The projects outlined in that April e-mail were: the proposed Mayo GAA training facility, the Mayo GAA underage Academy initiative, and other general player welfare and development initiatives for all players at levels and codes’.
Mike Connelly, who said he hadn’t seen the Foundation’s statement last week when he spoke to club delegates, agreed that the matters raised needed to be dealt with.
“Based on what comes in, we’ll have to respond to all the clubs on all the points made,” Connelly told journalists.
“That’s the starting point, then if people want to get clarity at the next County Board meeting, then let’s deal with it. It’s as simple as that.
“At the outset, there’s a place for everybody, including Tim O’Leary, and he’s very important to us. I want to make that very clear.
“Everybody knows the way that the GAA is structured, and that has to change.”

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