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Tyrone Chairman’s Speech to Tyrone Convention in Donaghmore – Sunday 11th Dec –

Sunday 11.12.2011
Team Talk Mag

Chairman – Ciaran McLaughlin
In October and November, I visited a number of our clubs to get views on the issues affecting them. I want to discuss these today and in the order of importance based on our discussions.
Unfortunately, in 2011, Tyrone County had unacceptable incidents at some games across the codes. When these incidents occur, the CCC is charged with investigating and proposing sanctions to offenders. On these occasions, having available to them all the material facts they are the initial decision makers. When they issue proposed sanctions, our clubs either congratulate or vilify the CCC depending on the outcome.

As we enter a new GAA year I would hope our clubs will unite with what will be a new CCC in 2012 and decide enough is enough and tackle ill-discipline head on. The GAA was founded to promote and preserve Gaelic Games. Every Club in Tyrone does that and much more. None of us can stand by and watch incidents unfold which bring shame on the Association. That is why early in 2012, I will be meeting the new CCC to progress a clear pathway for dealing quickly in response to incidents which may occur and in a manner which will leave every club certain of the outcome should they be involved in incidents of the nature I refer to. These are not acceptable and must be eradicated from our games. Alongside the CCC, I urge our clubs to review internally codes of conduct and ensure these are strong in content and widely available to your members. Finally, it is no longer acceptable for the volunteers who don the referee’s jersey to go through a match being subjected to abusive language or worse. This also is unacceptable and a matter which the new CCC will be asked to deal with very severely


In 2011 we attempted for the first time, to have a County Fixtures plan for football, hurling and camogie. This worked reasonably well with only some glitches. The running of our Leagues was highly praised by clubs as was the scheduling of our FC for August.
In 2012, the CCC, in conjunction with our Fixtures planners, Patsy Hetherington and Aidy O’Kane, will address the issues that arose in 2011 and help address them in the Fixtures plan for the incoming season. These will include proper placement of our FC’s, our Hurling County Finals, our league play-offs, our development squad coaching and our U21 competitions. I will also ask the incoming CCC to give very serious consideration to starting the Youth season in March with the possibility of 2 games per week across the various age-groups for a 4 / 5 month season for all clubs at each age-group. Of course, you, our clubs, are key to deciding what is best. Thus the CCC will be moving quickly to address all these matters early in 2012 and will meet the clubs before the County Committee decides our competition structures. I note there a number of CCC related recommendations here before us today, some of which I have touched on, and these too will require further discussions between the proposing clubs and the CCC, before CCC regulations are drafted.
Before moving away from fixtures I must mention 2 Ulster fixtures matters, the first the clash of the Ulster first Rd ladies and men’s ties on Sunday 30th October. I urge Ulster CCC’s not to let this clash occur again. Example of integration must come from provincial level and these clashes simply should not occur when so few games are involved. The second, the non-facilitation of our SFC winners, Dromore in the Ulster Club first round whilst other games were put off for those involved in the Compromise Rules. Our case was well stated yet the Ulster CCC would not facilitate our request, instead indicating that we knew when our teams were needed for Ulster this time last year. The impact of this will have to be considered when planning 2012 FC’s. Within the County, unless we decide the only way to proceed is to play games Friday Sat and Sunday throughout September and early October, we will have to seriously consider where we schedule our FC Rd 1 matches in order to facilitate Ulster Competitions which in 2012 start mid-October for our SFC winners.

In our clubs, I could feel very strongly the concerns about declining fundraising activities. This was also felt by the County Committee, particularly through our FC gates. Some will argue the fixing of the FC from August to October is causing most of the issues. Whilst the economy presently dictates to all of us, the rationale for playing our Rd 1 FC in August as opposed to May needs to be clear, it’s driven by our clubs’ wishes. Should this remain the wishes of our clubs, and I am pretty sure it will, then clubs must give due recognition of the need for the County Committee to address financial shortfalls within the County.

AS an rúnaí has pointed out in his report, the incoming Finance / County Committee have a duty to ensure there is an overall balance to the County’s finances and will have a key task for 2012 to ensure that the accounts produced today are managed as well. The County Committee rely on the FC for finance rather than requesting additional monies from clubs. That remains my chosen path and the reason I ask for a balance to the consideration of FC scheduling, particularly as we continue to remain in an economic recession.

2011’s Youth Committee drafted a Youth Development Plan for our clubs. Before that plan could be implemented, it was overtaken toward the end of 2011 when our Coaching Committee, led with great energy by Anne Daly and a new face to many of us, Brendan Harpur, produced a coaching plan for our County with feedback from all Inter County managers from 14 through to senior. Contained within the plan was the identified need to address coaching and youth activity in our clubs. To this end, the Coaching Committee has completed an audit of clubs and is about to commence the process of visiting the clubs who responded. The visits will aim to produce activity in our clubs to assist club Youth and Coaching Committees to achieve higher performance levels in clubs and consequently, our County. To assist our clubs, a group of individuals willing to assist has been identified and this work will commence immediately after the holidays. On more than a few occasions in the course of my visits, clubs asked about the necessity of our development squads, whether the correct player is being developed and why we continue to fix squad training against underage matches. I emphasise again the Coaching committee for 2012 has a head start in addressing these concerns as the plan I have already discussed identified these same issues and how they will be addressed.


Our Referees’ Committee has contacted all our clubs and met with the clubs in various cluster meetings. This was to receive feedback on issues clubs saw with refereeing which were stopping young men and women becoming referees, to take feedback on where clubs felt improvements could be made, and to launch a refereeing plan for 2012. I attended many of the meetings in the Cluster groups and you, the clubs, recognised the issues we face moving forward. The referees’ committee is determined to improve and enlarge the referees’ panel and to implement proposals from our current referees which will review existing structures.
Our clubs cannot shy away from their responsibility in assisting this process. Those clubs yet to engage with the process need to do so. The Referees’ Committee has already commenced the task of producing a group of Development Squad referees in the 20-25 age bracket and is also actively seeking new referees from our recently retired players. This work is ongoing and it is vital we, all clubs, genuinely assist the process and not simply pay it a token gesture.
I have already stated I will be working with the new CCC to ensure our Referees are protected and respected and would ask every club, every player to respect the referees of our games and ask our clubs to ingrain the RESPECT campaign which started at Go Games last year into players. The incoming Referees’ Committee will be working with referees to ensure this process is 2way.


The progress at Garvaghey has already been reported on tonight by Committee Chairman Liam Nelis. The work on the building is progressing well and we remain very much on target to open on that most significant of dates for Tyrone, 28 September 2013.
I have been asked many times regarding the Centre’s sustainability. Tyrone GAA has always had the vital tradition of not spending what it doesn’t have. It has also always had the tradition of looking after the money the Gaels of Tyrone and others give it. At the same time we have never shied away from spending money when it needs to be spent. And I think we have a record second to none in terms of raising that money in sustainable ways.
Those principles have always been applied to Garvaghey. From day one the project was scoped and planned on the basis of the needs of Gaelic Tyrone. What’s in it reflects what you and others told us should be in it. From the outset we’ve been equally focused on the cost of the project. Garvaghey must never be allowed to become a financial burden on Tyrone GAA and particularly on its Clubs: it is there to help drive Tyrone GAA forward, not to hold it back. Once the size and shape of Garvaghey were agreed it was costed at £6.7m. Those costs have proven to be very accurate. So too has been Tyrone GAA’s management of them.
A huge effort has gone into the financial planning of Garvaghey and ten-year financial planning for Tyrone GAA. We now have £4.7m of Garvaghey’s funding in place (£1.6m GAA grant; £1.0m from Club Tyrone; £0.10m from Omagh and Dungannon Councils; and a £1.75m GAA loan facility. Club Tyrone will contribute £1.0m, and with £250,000 of Rural Development Programme grant from DARD towards the Centre’s culture heritage we will be 85% of the way there. We do have some further grant applications underway but being prudent we don’t count anything we don’t have secured.
I have to stress our continued great disappointment at the fact that DCAL has yet to contribute to Garvaghey – the largest sport and cultural capital project underway anywhere in Ireland at the minute. That is something that I remain hopeful will be remedied and we are working to address this.
Undoubtedly, building Garvaghey is one thing. Sustaining it is another. Again, and I emphasise, we have looked at will continue to look at what’s involved here. Our projections show that by 2018, five years after it opens, Garvaghey is likely to cost approximately £85,000 annually to maintain. The repayments have been factored into our Ten-Year Financial Projections which show these can be met. Garvaghey is of course a huge commitment for Tyrone GAA. No other GAA County is doing anything like it. It has cost us money; time; and effort and will continue to do so. But in return it will deliver much, much more.
The PR Marketing group led by Hugh McAleer and the others who have assisted them deserve immense credit for their work in recruiting the Patrons. The number of patrons is very close to 200 and is astounding when we consider the current economic situation I mentioned earlier. The Patrons are very aware they are signing up for future generations of Tyrone Gaels to assist the process of preparing our teams to the highest level as well as providing facilities to our schools, clubs, Ladies and Camogs. On behalf of the County Committee I thank all of them for their support. Having only worked closely with the PR and Marketing Committee over the last 2 years I have seen at first hand their work ethic, their desire to promote GAA for all and believe with help from every facet of the wider GAA organisation in Tyrone new avenues will be explored successfully alongside achieving 200 patrons.

Recent figures I received indicate that the U16 population in Tyrone in 2017 will be 46,000+. In 2010, I set up an Urban Development committee to look at the challenge of increasing participation in our towns. The main issue for this committee was to increase membership and develop facilities in our urban areas to accommodate these large numbers.

In 2012 this committee will be replicated by a committee to look at rural clubs issues. The committee itself focus on our many clubs with ever dwindling numbers, in areas with schools proposed for closing and the added impact of PPS 21 which has yet to be measured. When we also remember that our parishes as we know them are in grave danger due to the ever decreasing number of priests then our present structures will have to be carefully reviewed. It is important from a strategic perspective that we understand the population changes in Tyrone. This group will have the scope to address all these issues with a reporting deadline of Convention 2012.


Our Community remains a key value for us in our clubs. Everything we do helps to enrich the communities we live in. Whilst the Association is primarily seen as a sporting body promoting Gaelic games, one of our main strengths in Tyrone, particularly in our rural clubs, is our presence in almost every community. The GAA ethos is promoted and most visible through the clubs in the County which have a central role in its locality and within its community.
All of our clubs are moving to becoming family-focused organisations that provides sporting, leisure and social activities for males and females of all ages in its community. The increased volunteerism that is required to complete this process will strengthen the clubs that go down this road in their community. In becoming more and more prevalent in society we must understand the responsibility that comes with this. In Ireland we, in the GAA family, remain in pole position in shaping our young people’s life. To further strengthen this GAA have replaced the Youth Officer’s post with a new Children’s Officer. In Tyrone today we are appointing Kathryn Anderson, from Pomeroy Plunketts, whose professional capacity is as a designated officer for Child Protection. Kathryn’s appointment emphasises our commitment to our young people and our willingness to safeguard their future and the future of the Association in Tyrone.


At Convention 2011, I stated that the club unit is the base upon which Cumann Luchleas Gael is built. Those of you who have heard me speak since then know I am strongly committed to the club unit with the Association and ethos of the club family. Indeed on my visits to clubs, clubs who are partially or indeed completely integrated would like to see more formal joint-working with the LGFA in Tyrone.

Over the last year, I have sat on a National Sub-Committee, with representatives from the GAA, Ladies Football and Camogie to work on a report to help foster a move to a ‘one-club model’ at club level, where all three Associations will operate through one unit. Whilst the One Club model will not be compulsory, the benefits of such a move at club level are many. Its administration will be governed by a single constitution, which provides for the election of an Executive Committee to manage the business and affairs of the club as well as providing for a single membership structure. All activity, including fundraising and games development are carried out to support the development of the club and the promotion of all games. It is no longer wise to have clubs within local communities fundraising separately, especially when communities are struggling through unemployment and income is lower than it has been in a long time. Emigration continues to impact heavily on our clubs and in these difficult times individual Clubs in a locality need to come together to support the larger club family.

In Tyrone, most of our Ladies Football and Camogie clubs are integrated within the GAA club. In that regard we are well ahead of the pack and I note that Rounders, which is prevalent in a few clubs has been trialled and well received in Drumragh club, a new avenue to consider for those of you who want to deliver every aspect of GAA. In 2012 I will be asking the Development and Integration Committees to work closely together to assist Clubs wishing to move towards the One Club. For those of you not yet fully integrated I urge you to move forward in 2012 toward One club. One clear message your club can send out is through providing a single membership structure, men woman paying the same fee. Boys and girls likewise.

Nationally, to demonstrate enthusiasm for Integration, the 3 Associations will have to address some basic issues. Just one example is the necessity for coaches who had qualified via the men’s Foundation and Level 1 coaching courses to undertake separate ladies courses. If the Associations are genuine about integration, this is a needless imposition on coaches who are already well qualified.

Moving on to other issues I would like to mention. The first of these is

For the first time in 2011 our Hurling Clubs had a dedicated Hurling Officer, Brendan Harkin, whose own role is to continue to develop Hurling. Whilst Hurling in Tyrone might have reached its lowest ebb in 2010, a renewed enthusiasm coupled with a changed mindset brought about an immediate impact with our Senior Hurlers winning promotion from Division 4. This development is encouraging and only time will tell if this impetus will continue. For sure, Brendan is very aware of the task in hand and has already met with clubs to produce a plan of action for the next 3 years. I urge all hurlers in Tyrone, who are a small yet dedicated group, to work with Brendan closely to achieve continued progress. We must build very quickly on the Seniors’ momentum with our U21 and U18 teams to build a solid foundation for Hurling in the County and at the same time stabilise our clubs. Having met with Uchtaran tofa Liam O’Neill, a renewed plan to create impetus for hurling in weaker counties is on its way and will be one our clubs and our County Committee await enthusiastically


We must maximise our IT & social media and its benefits for communications across clubs. The website is vital to all of this and our incoming IT committee and CCC will be charged with ensuring all Fixtures & results sections are readily available, easily accessible and updated regularly. Over 90% of the traffic to the website is fixtures / results related and we have to aim for daily updates of this information. Our incoming IT Committee has a major piece of work to do to ensure we are 21st Century in all we do in IT as this will be the main avenue in 2012 for keeping our young members continually updated.


Once again, I thank Seamus McBrien of Target Express and Kieran Kennedy of O’Neills Sportswear for their very strong commitment to Tyrone GAA. Power NI came on board in 2011 to support our club FC and I thank Kirstie Forsthye and Malachy McVeigh in particular for their assistance in bringing the deal through. Pat Fahy & Co continue to support our programmes and in concluding I urge you all to reciprocate the support shown by all sponsors in your club and in the County, and support all sponsors whenever possible.


In 2011, I also offer congratulations to Sperrin Og Ladies on their All-Ireland Junior success and to Derrytresk, newly Crowned Ulster JFC Champions on their achievements to date in the fairytale run to the All-Ireland semi-final in January.


In 2011 the relationships with our 4 Councils has developed further. Omagh, in leading the way, have funded the Garvaghey project, part-funded Conor Gormley’s Games Promotion Officer post and continued to employ an Irish language officer. Also, when the RDP grant of £250k was under threat the Council were really supportive in our hour of need. I express my thanks to Frankie Donnelly, the Cathaiorleach and the Council Officials, led so well by Danny McSorley and Alison McCullagh.
Cookstown DC continue to employ Ronan Devlin as GAA games promotion officer and as importantly, is about to officially open their 3G GAA size pitch at MUSA. I look forward to our teams benefitting from this major investment and compliment Cookstown Council and Chief Executive Adrian McCreesh, for their foresight in installing the pitch. I would point out that Cookstown and Dungannon Councils are also working together to promote the Irish language. Dungannon Council is also part-funding Orla O’Neill’s Games Promotion Officer post and with Iain Fraser, acting Chief Exectuive, currently assisting us to explore ways to obtain further funding toward Garvaghey to add to the £25k already received, I am hopeful of reporting to Convention 2012 of an even stronger relationship with Dungannon.
As a Strabane native, I hope that very soon in the New Year Strabane Council will be in a position to award us funding toward the Garvaghey project and still harbour hopes that Strabane DC will support the Coaching initiative, thus maintaining the 4 Council’s collaborative approach to Tyrone GAA into 2012. I thank Brian McMahon and Kieran Maguire for their assistance to date.
All 4 Councils also employ Active Communities Officers and I thank all of them for their continued assistance in promoting Gaelic Games and urge all clubs to link closely with the Games Promotion Officer and Active Community Officer in your Council area to assist your own plans.


The County Strategic Plan, when launched in 2007, had many targets across CLG in Tyrone. The progress towards these has been such that we are ready to start the consultation process for the new report due in 2013. The incoming Strategic Review committee will be tasked with that responsibility and I hope Convention 2012 will see the launch of our new County Strategy.
Strategically, I know our clubs remain concerned at the £70m+ funding for Casement whilst there is no present funding available for them. I will remain in contact with the Ulster Council to have the concerns raised at our County Committee addressed early in 2012, when I will ask the Ulster Council to visit Tyrone to address concerns and to show us the benefits we can expect in Tyrone from the Casement Project.


I mentioned earlier the RDP grant of £250k and want to record my thanks to Michelle O’Neill, the DARD Minister and her predecessor Michelle Gildernew for their support and in recognising the necessity of the project to maintain our Culture & Heritage in the new Centre.
Tyrone GAA is a family. I state that because I believe it. Today you will be asked to support the Camogie family in their hour of real need. I will also add to that my request to make a similar contribution through your fees, to the Red Knights in Beragh. £100 from every club and a contribution from the County will go some to letting the Camogs and Beragh know that their difficulties are not forgotten within the Tyrone GAA family.
As is customary in a new GAA year changes will be made to the various sub-committees to ensure we maintain a highly-focused group of people working across our various sub-committees to improve all areas of our clubs and our County. In the main our sub-committees worked well in 2011 however changes are inevitable after today’s Convention as Michael Harvey, Seamus McDonald, Donal Magee and Michael McCaughey complete their 5 year terms and Eugene McConnell’s role as Youth Officer is replaced by the new Children’s Officer role. Michael Kerr completes 5 years as Chair of the Hearings Committee and Donal Magee also 5 years as Vice Chair of the CCC. When the election of officers is completed my first task will be to meet incoming Management committee to begin the process of selecting new sub-committees.
I am sure you will all join with me in thanking all of those who work on our sub-committees and in particular those men I have mentioned for their work to date on behalf of the Association in Tyrone. In congratulating these men I would ask that you all be upstanding and join me in applauding them and also three-time All-Ireland winner and two time captain Brian Dooher, and three time winners Brian McGuigan, Philip Jordan and Enda McGinley Ciaran Gourley who all announced retirements since the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Dublin.
2011 has been a year where Tyrone GAA has not had its sorrows to seek. On numerous occasions we learned of another family of Gaels being beset by tragedy, affecting members themselves or their families in the Association across Tyrone. Our Clubs dealt with each occasion supremely, giving total consideration to, and dealing considerately with the families in their hour of greatest need. I compliment our clubs for helping those families through the personal tragedy that beset them, for the continuing support that they continue to provide and would ask you all now to stand and join me in remembering the lives of those lost, remembering all those members listed in an rúnaí’s report and the many others whom have passed to their eternal reward in 2011.

As others see us … Mar a fheiceann daoine eile a dhéanamh linn

AND I QUOTE from the book, GAA County by County – “The triumph of the GAA in Tyrone has been its central position in the lives of so many people. … More so even than the All-Ireland success, the manner in which the GAA is embedded in the community and the fact that our clubs are engaged in playing football (men and woman), hurling, camogie, handball, rounders and other social and cultural initiatives is perhaps the greatest testament to the success of the Association in the county.”

To conclude then, I want to thank everyone who assisted with the running of our County’s activities in 2011. I wish all of you present, the members of the clubs in Tyrone, all their families and Tyrone Gaels everywhere a very peaceful Christmas Holiday.
Go raibh maith agaibh.



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