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The big interview: Mary Prenty


ON DUTY Mary Prenty, who was Mayo GAA’s Covid-19 officer from 2020-2021, is pictured working at MacHale Park in Castlebar before a NFL match between Mayo and Down last year. Also in the photo is Mayo GAA PRO, John Walker. Pic: Conor McKeown

Mary Prenty from Ballyhaunis is hoping to be the next Mayo GAA Secretary

Oisín McGovern

Q. Why would you say you want to be Mayo GAA Secretary?
A. Because I think I have the skills and the knowledge from club and divisional boards and a good bit of know-how about how to carry out the role.
From the other perspective I’ve had a very productive working relationship with all the clubs from my time as Development Officer, Covid officer with the board, and as the current Planning and Training officer.

Q. Describe the role of County Secretary in your own words?
A. The GAA rule says all correspondence must go through the secretary. It applies to clubs, but it also applies to county. You’re the first point of call in the county for correspondence. I’ll be the chief administrator in relation to correspondence, membership, registrations, affiliations, insurance, property and discipline.
I’ll be communicating with county board officers and delegates. I’ll be arranging meetings, recording meeting and following up different actions from the meeting and ensuring that they are followed up. I’ll be organising conventions and also helping clubs with their planning and administration.

Q. What are the first 3 things you would do to put your own stamp on things?
A. I’d be fairly adamant that I will put my stamp on club administration, not controlling them or anything, but supporting the club to be the best they can be in terms of their own administration.
The other thing I’d like is some kind of a plan with where we’re going.
At the moment Mayo don’t have a Strategic Plan.
As Planning and Training officer I gathered a committee and we looked exactly where we were at. We contacted the clubs. We got their views on what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it, and helped them with their club plans. Those plans dictate your five important goals for this year, next year and the year after.
We’ve seen the difference it makes to clubs that have a plan as distinct from clubs that haven’t a plan. They’re worlds apart. I’d like to think that I’d be able to support whoever comes behind me with instigating club plans.

Q. Is there anything else about the structure that needs to change?
A. I think a Strategic Plan that would get all the views of everybody on board would support that. Really without that we’re kind of shooting the dark.

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing the next Mayo GAA Board in the short, medium and long term?
A. From my role in planning and training and the development officer role, I’ve been closely involved with the majority of clubs. Having set up e-mails and organised IT and communications during Covid, the biggest challenge that I see from a county perspective is the burden on volunteers. It’s more of a burden of work on fewer and fewer people.
The biggest medium-term challenge is support for clubs. I’d be positive I’d be the kind of person that would be ready to work with them if they ask for help.
The biggest medium-to long-term challenge that I feel is how we manage population changes and demographics. You’d have areas like Breaffy, Claremorris that are getting more populated for various reasons. Then you have the rural places where you mightn’t have the best transport, you might have less people working from home.

Q. Would you be in favour of the appointment of a full-time CEO for Mayo GAA?
A. I would definitely favour it. It’s inevitable that every county board would have a full-time Operations Manager or CEO working with them in the years ahead.

Q. How can Mayo GAA better communicate its goals and activities?

A. Currently we have the chairperson, secretary, treasurer, PRO, and county board delegates all on the official mail. That was a major job I did as Development Officer in conjunction with Liam Moffatt. That, to me, is a huge move forward.
Our county board delegates are elected by the clubs, and they attend their monthly meetings. It’s not perfect because you’ll have some officers telling you: “We’ve our county board delegate but he never tells what’s going on.” It’s never going to be perfect, but we have to go with the guidance that’s there.

Q. Can Mayo win the All-Ireland in 2023?
A. I don’t know what Kevin McStay and his team are going to do. I think they deserve our full support. It’s not an easy task. You have players retiring from good teams because of their age. What keeps me going is that I believe they can win Sam every year.

Q. The McHale Park debt requires repayments of approximately €25,000 per month to service the loan. Mayo GAA will pay €3m over the next ten years. Do you envisage ways in which the burden of the MacHale Park debt on clubs can be eased?
A. All I know, from dealing with the clubs, is that they cannot afford to increase their financial contribution. The only way that we can support clubs is through the Development Draw and making that more attractive maybe.
I suppose we have to continue with Cairde Maigh Eo.
We also have to keep a close contact with our Ard Comhairle in relation to our construction projects. Mayo GAA got €100,000 of a grant recently for MacHale Park, so we have to make sure we avail of anything that comes through.

Q. What is the one thing that keeps you awake at night regarding Mayo GAA?
A. The only thing that kept me awake over the last while was that Ballyhaunis would win the Intermediate Championship. My husband John was involved with the team, so it brought back memories.

Q. If you’re elected, what legacy would you like to leave?
A. I think I can do my very best for administration in Mayo. I’d like to have a top-class administrative set-up while I’m there. How people judge me afterwards, I can’t control that. Any place I have been in administration I think I have done a good job.
I’ve kept everybody in the loop. I’d like to think that that contributes.

Q. Are you in favour of a Mayo GAA Centre of Excellence being developed during your term?
A. From our executive meetings I know Séamus Tuohy [chairman] is kind of adamant that they will have excellent training facilities in MacHale Park.
The current plans that are there are for Mulvey Park and they will continue to drive to make sure we have the best training facilities in MacHale Park.


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