In his weekly Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely writes about the changes that could effect Limerick Bord na nOg officers.
There was no rush for the door, normally the delegates would be in motion long before the prayer for those recently deceased would be finished.
This time they moved slowly and huddled into small groups. It was clear there was a fair bit of discontent and what surprised me most was that delegates that heretofore would normally keep their council were now far from happy with what they had just heard at the October meeting of the Limerick County Board.
This was the meeting that saw nominations close for Convention in December but we also had some debate on the recent directive from Croke Park which would see a major shakeup in how the County Bord Na nOg officers are elected in future. This matter got a good airing during the meeting but also amongst delegates after the meeting. They were very angry at how this matter had been handled at Central Council level but many were far from happy with the response of Rory Kiely.
I will return to that later but it would appear that relationships between the County Senior Board and County Bord Na nOg are far from healthy and over the past couple of years the level of co-operation has been very poor.
Many within Bord Na nOg feel they are being sidelined but it was clear from this meeting and others that the clubs on the ground still see a place for them and such loyalty at grass roots level may well be needed in the weeks ahead.
It was a surprise to all bar a few when Aine McNamara stood up to make a presentation on a new strategy for underage in Limerick. Denis Carroll, who was representing Board Na nOg at the meeting, now walked out.
It was not listed on the agenda and could it be true that Chairman Liam Lenihan was told only five minutes before the meeting started? Ms McNamara said she was part of a group that had been working for the past eight months and they were now ready to send their findings to the clubs for discussion.
She told us they had made contact with all the stakeholders, she had some very interesting points to make but she never told us that they had not made contact with County Bord Na nOg and that is very strange given that they look after underage affairs in Limerick. Why was that?
When it came to discussing Rule 3.21 in relation to Sub Committees the clubs on the floor left the top table in no doubt that they were not going to be rolled over so handily despite what Croke Park were saying. You got the sense that other than Liam Lenihan and Michael O’Riain many in the high chairs were happy to follow the gospel from high office.
Rory Kiely seemed to have changed his view from the last meeting and many on the floor afterwards were not happy with him and some even referred back to how poorly Limerick were treated by Croke Park when they won the right to play in Division 1 of the National League. Rule 3.21 would give the power to the County Board to appoint people to run Bord Na nOg.
It was the source of some debate and club after club supported leaving matters as they are and it was also clear the clubs did not like being talked down to by Croke Park. Donal Morrissey, who will now be the new County Board Treasurer next year, said they were trying to pre propose the outcome of convention and provided a solution, “Give them the power to select by election and you can ratify”. He also said it suited management to implement new regulations.
West Board Chairman Pat O’Donnell was next to speak and he put it up to the County Board. “It’s as simple as this. Donal Morrissey has provided the answer and if ye have the balls ye will go along with it”. John O’Brien from Claughaun and others followed in favour, said O’Brien. “We are being dictated to from the top and the grass roots will suffer. It’s time we made a stand”.
Michael O’Riain also spoke and said, “I am totally opposed to it and it appears this has come about because of a problem somewhere else. No one wants to change what we have.”
Bord Na nOg in Limerick has huge support if this meeting was anything to go by and the clubs left the meeting in no doubt that they are firmly in support of what they are doing. Such support had little impact on some people because I hear that some officers of Bord Na nOg were summoned to a meeting on last Thursday night.
The word on the ground is that they were given a dressing down and if they did not toe the line that funding from County Board would be in doubt? Was the Secretary speaking on behalf of the County Board because if not he was way out of line. In recent weeks I also heard that Bord Na nOg wanted to play two 40 minute matches under lights in Rathkeale but were told it would cost them three hundred euro? That would appear to be a very harsh call and not in line with games development.
In total I think County Bord Na nOg run around 1200 games per year and organise more than 60 finals. They have room to improve but it would appear they are being shown a lack of respect by some people despite the amount of games they get through each year.
This meeting also saw the nominations for convention and two places were filled without any contest. Donal Morrissey and Pat Heffernan were the only candidates for the positions of Treasurer and Vice Chairman. That could also have been so different because three people on the County Board made huge efforts to get men to stand against them. They had a man to stand against Heffernan, they gave a few days trying to secure him but they were disappointed when he pulled out only hours before the meeting. They also tried hard to get, as they put it, someone to “mark” Donal Morrissey but that also failed. The officers in question would have been better off minding their own jobs instead of trying to influence who was joining the Board.
The next few weeks will be interesting but this past week was yet another indication of the politics within Limerick GAA It has little sign of improving but clubs are at least starting to ask questions and that is long overdue.