FOR the first time in almost 20 years a sitting Limerick GAA chairman is being challenged at the Sunday’s Annual Convention.
In the new clubhouse of Ballylanders GAA, vice-chairman Pat Heffernan is standing for election against chairman Oliver Mann.
Patrickswell’s Mann is in his second year as County Board chairman and Blackrock’s Heffernan is the out-going vice-chairman.
The last time a sitting chairman was challenged was in December 1996 when Gerry Bennis stood against Brendan Danaher and ultimately lost out when the vice-chairman’s vote was necessary after the two candidates ended with the same number of votes.
LeaderSport asked both candidates for chairman for their views on the big local GAA issues.
What would you hope to achieve in your tenure as Limerick GAA chairman?
OLIVER MANN: Continued progress and stability. A senior All Ireland would be fantastic and I think this can be achieved in the very near future.
What we are really working towards is a scenario whereby Limerick teams are regularly challenging for, and attaining, honours on a consistent basis across all grades and codes. The investment in our hurling and football Academies and the continued development of our players and personnel is the roadmap for success. We must follow through on what has been started.
PAT HEFFERNAN: I would hope that during my tenure we would see Limerick win an All-Ireland, and as Chairman I will offer what support I can to achieve this. I promise to be upfront with all our clubs regarding decisions of the management committee.
I will give full support to the implementation group to develop and prepare our future players to the highest standard. I also hope to see Limerick GAA debt free.
More amalgamation sides are appearing annually at Bord na nOg, minor and U-21 level. Will adults clubs need to be joined in the near future?
OLIVER MANN: It is a major concern and something I think that has to be considered. The world has changed an awful lot and clubs are facing huge challenges. The club is the heartbeat of the association and I would support new initiatives to support them. The most important thing is that children have the opportunity to play Gaelic Games locally. A club with a well organised underage set up is invariably a club with a good adult structure and I feel clubs need to be more co-ordinated in marrying the two areas.
PAT HEFFERNAN: Hopefully this will not be the case. The Association’s success has been largely due to its structure and organisation in every town, village and parish in the country. Pride of place and pride in the club jersey is what makes the GAA unique. I am aware of the challenges that face clubs due to emigration and increased running costs, but I don’t envisage wholesale amalgamations happening at adult level.
Plans are in place to construct a stand and other facilities in Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park. Can you see this development progressing in the near future?
OLIVER MANN: I would be very optimistic that facilities at Mick Neville Park will continue to improve on a phased basis.
We are extremely grateful to the Neville Family for giving us the opportunity to construct a centre of excellence. Obviously, finance is the major concern, but the grant-aid already received remains in situ. We would be hopeful that additional grants would be made available to us in order to complete the project if we are to seek excellence on the field, it is our duty to provide excellent facilities off of it.
PAT HEFFERNAN: Mick Neville Park has proven most valuable to us, especially in the preparation and training of all county teams.
I would like to see the development going ahead, but availability of funding will dictate this. My priority is the continued development of our games at all levels.
The appointment of varying inter-county managers has led to disquiet in recent years. What process of appointment do you favour?
OLIVER MANN: People will always have opinions on managerial appointments and I suppose, it can be difficult to please everybody. However, I was very encouraged to see the unanimous support for the speedy re –appointment of our senior hurling management. Ideally, I would like to see Limerick teams managed by Limerick people and I’m pleased this is the current situation in all of our squads from Senior down. Many talented and dedicated people have come on board in our academies and I would be very confident in their abilities to progress to the next level.
PAT HEFFERNAN: A much better system should be set up under the Chairmanship of the County Hurling and Football Officers. On these committees I would envisage having sound hurling and football people and representative of the four divisions. The selection process should focus on the wealth of hurling and football management talent that is within the county and not be searching for outside managers. We have great resources of experience, passion and knowledge in the county and this should be harnessed.
The Limerick GAA Development Draw (formerly Mackey Stand Draw) continues to suffer from falling numbers in membership. What format would you like to see used as the main fund-raiser run by the County Board?
OLIVER MANN: Many loyal supporters were very hard- pressed during the economic downturn and I feel it’s very important that we acknowledge and understand that. The newly launched Club Limerick Draw offers great prizes and its success is vital to securing funding for our clubs, schools and underage teams it should be borne in mind that the Board makes no money from it. Everything raised is ploughed back into development through grants. I would appeal to our loyal supporters to join the draw.
PAT HEFFERNAN: I would like to see the Mackey Development Draw continue and as a former player I would involve other former players to help promote it in their own areas. This draw has been very beneficial for Bord na n-Og, the primary schools the second level schools, the green and white magazine as well as providing much-needed funds for the participating clubs. I will also undertake to investigate how other counties are successfully raising funds and see if any of these can be replicated and improved on by us in Limerick.
Planning permission has been granted for music concerts in the Gaelic Grounds. Are you in favour of progressing with this venture?
OLIVER MANN: A lot of effort was put into obtaining planning permission for concerts and I would definitely be in favour of progressing with the venture. Not only would a concert bring much needed revenue to Limerick GAA it would also be a huge boost hospitality and related businesses in Limerick City and County. In 2013 Club Limerick was established to co-ordinate fundraising within our association in Limerick and to ensure that the County Board would not have a burden of debt in the future that might in any way inhibit the development of our teams.
I would see the staging of a concert playing its part in the development of our facilities and players.
PAT HEFFERNAN: All avenues will have to be explored when it comes to financing the County. I’m in favour of holding concerts in the Gaelic Grounds, as I feel that the GAA also has a role to play in bringing visitors to Limerick City and forging links with business in the City. Considerable money has already been invested in getting the planning permission and its time that it was progressed to the next step.
The original ‘Lifting the Treaty’ plan of October 2008 brought an end to the divisional Bord na nOgs. Do you see a future for divisional boards at adult level in Limerick?
OLIVER MANN: Divisional Boards have played a huge part in promoting GAA in Limerick over the years and will continue to do so. However, it is important that we organise a sufficient number of games for our players. In the future I would hope that where a division might not have sufficient games in a particular grade it would join with another division at that grade to remedy the situation, like the City-East at Minor level. I would also like to see Divisional Boards getting more involved in promoting our culture through Scor.
PAT HEFFERNAN: Having served as Chairman of the South Divisional Board and having been involved with members of the four Divisional Boards in my role as County Vice-Chairman, I am well aware of the great work that’s being done at Divisional level and I see that continuing in to the future. I always felt it a great honour to win Divisional Honours and some of my most treasured medals are my South Championship ones in Hurling and Football. They were often the hardest earned!!
At the Limerick GAA Convention of December 2012, clubs voted in favour of adding a role of Hurling Officer to the top table of Limerick’s County Board. Would you like to see this position filled?
OLIVER MANN: Currently we have a Coaching and Games officer, Games Manager and six full time coaches.
It would be important not to appoint any officer that would be duplicating some of the roles of those already appointed. These issues were referred to the Bye-Laws committee for their consideration. At the County Board meeting of September 18 when Minor, U-21 and Intermediate managers were ratified by the Clubs, I indicated that a structure would be put in place where by all managers would meet on a regular basis to ensure a co-ordinated approach as to how we train for and play hurling in Limerick. The first of these meetings took place on November 9. In principle I have no objection to the appointment of a Hurling Officer, but the role must be defined.
PAT HEFFERNAN: Of course I would, I thought that this was a very progressive move by the 2012 convention. I can’t understand why the position has not been filled already. If I become Chairman it will be filled straight away. I already mentioned how this officer would have a role in the selection of Inter-County Managements.
In 2014 Limerick didn’t have any dual player at minor level. With academy structures now in place for the underage inter-county hurling and football panels is there a need for an official policy on dual players?
OLIVER MANN: Limerick GAA has always been open to the concept of dual players. It is generally accepted that the demands nowadays are so great on players that it is almost impossible to be a dual player at inter county level. I would like to see it left to the player himself to decide if he wants to have a ‘go’ at being a dual player. I would hope that managers would try and facilitate this. I would not like to see an official policy saying, “You must choose one or the other”.
PAT HEFFERNAN: We all know that the demands on dual players at inter-county level have increased in recent times. I think that it is a good thing that our underage players are free to enjoy playing both games, I don’t see any pressing need for an official policy regarding dual players.