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The big interview: Ronan Kirrane


EXPERIENCE Ronan Kirrane was Mayo GAA Assistant Secretary for the last five years.

Ronan Kirrane of Davitts GAA would like to be the next Mayo GAA Secretary

Mike Finnerty

Q. Why would you say you want to be Mayo GAA Secretary?

A. After five years being Assistant Secretary, and three years as Secretary of Bord na nÓg, it’s kind of a natural progression. I also did seven years as club secretary.
So I’ve got a good working knowledge of how it works at club level and county level.
Quite simply, it’s a role I want to do because I love it. I enjoy the element of assisting clubs and working with their needs, and I’m lucky enough that I get on very well with the clubs.
That’s a good advantage to me.

Q. Describe the role of County Secretary in your own words?
A. There’s no doubt it’s a massive role, because of how broad it is.
There’s a lot of different parts to it, like keeping records and around meetings, but I’ve had the five years at Bord na nÓg so I’m used to plenty of meetings.
Also, in my role as principal of a school, I’m well used to controlling meetings, discussing things, taking people’s views on board.
Communication with clubs is very important; that clubs know when they ring me or e-mail, they’ll get an answer. That’s a major aspect of it.
Another is that you have to be answerable to the clubs.

Q. What are the first three things you would do to put your own stamp on things?
A. The first would be to develop further the Operations Manual.
I spent a year on that, to-ing and fro-ing with it, and I’d like to formalise some of the policies that we use.
So that everyone is very clear on the processes that we follow because they have to be transparent.
We also have to address the issues we have around centralised facilities in Mayo.
We’re close to getting where we need to be on that, and I’d expect that in the next two months that there will be major development on it.
Also, I’d like to try and make the lives of club secretaries a bit easier by using technology and software.

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing the next Mayo GAA Board in the short, medium and long term?

A. The most immediate one is the facilities. We need them in a central location, both for our underage football finals, our senior finals, our inter-county teams, and our Academy teams.
So we need to get that going and we need to light up as many of those pitches as we can as well -in a sustainable way for clubs.
You also have to consider the HR element in Mayo GAA, the debt and our governance, there are challenges but our treasurer and assistant treasurer have worked tirelessly to tidy up some legacy issues and to develop on further. And that is making a difference to clubs because rebates are coming back to clubs again.

Q. Would you be in favour of the appointment of a full-time CEO for Mayo GAA?
A. Mayo GAA is multi-million euro organisation, it needs more HR supports in place to reduce the reliance on the volunteers.
But there has to be a balance because I wouldn’t like to see Mayo run as a sort of soulless corporation, akin to other sports. We need to focus on our club structures and our volunteers and work with the great people we have on the ground.

Q. Does the structure of Mayo GAA need to change?
A. We didn’t need massive change. We have seen our own structures start to work more efficiently, we have a lot of sub-groups working tirelessly behind the scenes.

Q. How can Mayo GAA better communicate its goals and activities?
A. It’s very very important that we deliver a clear message and we work with our print media and socials more. We’re lucky that we have a really good PRO and his team, and everyone will have seen the huge exposure in covering our underage games in the last two years.
But we need to improve our relationship with the newspapers, the radio and the media and give out the good message, and not be afraid to talk to the media.

Q. Can Mayo win the All-Ireland in 2023?
A. We absolutely can, when you see some of the players that have been brought through in the last few years. We have a new management in place, lots of experience, and a very professional structure in place.

Q. The McHale Park Debt requires repayments of approx €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. It’s a very contentious issue, and it should be.
We need to start to look at other ways of reducing our debt. Our Cairde Maigh Eo have been really active in the last couple of years.
We need to look at Government schemes that are out there, and other opportunities outside the box. We need to help our clubs because, if we’re helping our clubs, we’re helping our county.

Q. What is the one thing that keeps you awake at night regarding Mayo GAA?
A. Fixtures and referees. It’s very time-consuming and challenging.
For the last five years I’ve pretty much been the primary person administering underage fixtures and assigning referees and getting venues.
This year we administered the highest number of underage games ever: 2,250 games; that’s intense and it’s full-time. And we do have a referee shortage.

Q. What legacy would you like to leave?
A. I firmly believe that a secretary shouldn’t be concerned about legacy.
Our job with Mayo GAA is to be as positive and effective as we can in our roles.

Q. Are you in favour of a Mayo GAA Centre of Excellence being developed during your term?
A. Certainly we need more centralised and enhanced facilities, but have more immediate challenges. We have so many inter-county teams and Academy teams and we need somewhere accessible with state-of-the-art facilities.
I’d like to see the facilities at MacHale Park expanded. I think we’re very close to it and it’s something we need to engage with a little bit more.
That development will not impact on clubs financially.

Q. If I am a club delegate undecided who to vote for, what makes you the best candidate to be the next Secretary?
A. I firmly believe elections are not won with talk, they’re won by people who take action and have hands-on experience. That’s what makes me the best candidate for the role.


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