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Club chairman ‘disheartened’ by recent saga



Ger Flanagan

BALLAGHADERREEN GAA club chairman Dermot Dillon says the ongoing saga that has engulfed the Mayo County Board in recent months is ‘disheartening’ for clubs, but he also believes that the controversy has led to ‘serious’ and much-needed debate ahead of the upcoming County Convention.
Dillon, who is in his fourth year as Ballagh’ chairman, says that the relationship between clubs and County Board officials has been damaged by the dispute between Mayo GAA and Tim O”Leary of the Mayo GAA International Supporters’ Foundation.
“It’s unprecedented, the level of the fall-out between the County Board and the clubs,” he told The Mayo News. “I think relationships are as strained as they have ever been.
“But the fallout, for us anyway, has created serious debate about people going for election; there is some seriously different opinions in the club and some serious conversation going on, which has to be a good thing.
“There are serious election campaigns taking place, with people willing to go out and talk to clubs; a lot of conversation taking place between clubs in regards to motions, and they are things I haven’t experienced before.
“It gives me a small bit of optimism that at the end of it all there will be a Phoenix rising from the flames.”
Questions regarding ‘governance issues’ and relating to Mayo GAA finance is a particular area of concern for the Ballaghaderreen club official. He pointed out that clubs are under extreme financial pressure due to annual levies and costs, and worries that the damage done to Mayo GAA’s name could potentially harm their fund-raising capacity abroad in the future.
“It’s just very disheartening,” he said. “It’s one controversy after another and there seems to be an awful lot of ‘own goals’ being scored going back a while now.
“This year it’s the [Mayo GAA International Supporters] Foundation debacle, and there’s the rights and wrongs on all sides. Last year there was the JP McManus funding debacle, then you can go back to the Kevin McStay and Stephen Rochford situations; there just seems to be a lot of own goals scored at County Board level.
“Seeing supporters giving over money in America seems a very positive development for the county, but how will Mayo GAA go back across the pond, either side of the country, and raise money again with this current debacle?
“There would want to be a big change in culture, a change of personnel, it’s probably on the cards anyway, and the whole structure of it.”
Dillon, who works as a national school principal, admitted that he ‘does not envy’ the difficult job that faces Mayo GAA officers and the amount of volunteer hours needed to carry it out. However, he says lessons must be taken on board from successful counties like Dublin and Kilkenny as to how they run their operations.
He pointed out that more full-time staff in administration need to be considered for the future, given the size of the current organisation.
He also believes the amount of ‘off-field work’ being put on clubs is seriously affecting the ‘on-field work’ and it is preventing new volunteers from joining. He says this unneeded pressure from County Board level is the last thing clubs need.
“So much club time is taken up by fund-raising, policy and procedure and stuff coming from Croke Park… you’re getting away from the on-field activities which we need to be doing,” he said.
“Any position is difficult to fill in any club right now. To get involved in coaching or at the underage, there are huge loops you have to ask people to jump through before they even start. “Child Protection is a big issue, you have training courses and safe guarding, vetting, even something as simple as using WhatsApp you’re telling people they’re not supposed to use it, so it’s getting more and more difficult.
“One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is the numbers needed to run a club right now… it’s huge. To run a senior team now, the bar is getting higher. John O’Mahony [former Mayo manager] knows it and thinks it’s equivalent to a senior inter-county team a number of years ago.
“So raising funds for all that, and keeping them on the road, is getting more and more difficult.”

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