The Following is the full extract of the Roscommon County board Chairman, Seamus Sweeney’s address to the convention last night in Ballinameen:
I want to welcome you all to our Annual Convention tonight in Ballinameen. I want to thank the Ballinameen Club for their kind offer to host the convention & I compliment those in this community whose foresight, vision & hard work put this Community Centre in place.
The past year has been very busy & very challenging. On the playing fields our senior footballers maintained division 1 status & reached a Connacht Final. All of us were disappointed at their exit from the championship losing out to Clare, but a league semi-final & a Connacht Final appearance is progress to build on.
After the championship Joint Manager Fergal O’Donnell stepped down. Fergal has contributed much to Roscommon football & I thank him for his work over the years & in particular with the senior panel last year. I also want to thank David Casey & Stephen Bohan who also stepped down this year.
The process of appointing new management was put in place as soon as possible. There was concern in some quarters at the length of time the process took but it has to be understood that the County Board has to follow a process once it’s agreed & we had to be fair to everyone. Arising from this the County Board ratified the appointment of Kevin McStay. I want to wish Kevin well as the senior team manager.
Our Hurlers won Div 3A & compete in Div 2A next year. Our campaign in the Christy Ring Cup ended when we lost to Down. Nevertheless this is solid progress building on our Nickey Rackard Cup success of 2015. After the hurlers season ended this year Justin Campbell decided to step down. Since 2013 Justin has made huge progress leading Roscommon to Nicky Rackard Cup, Allianz League and Connacht Intermediate titles and the All-Ireland Under 21 B Final during his term. I want to thank him for all his efforts & I wish him well in the future. I also want to welcome new hurling manager Johnny Kelly & wish him every success in Roscommon.
Our other underage squads had mixed results with our under 21 footballers beaten in the Connacht Final by Mayo while our minor footballers won the Connacht league but lost to Galway in the semi-final of the Connacht Championship. It is worth noting that our U 16, U 17 & minor hurlers acquitted themselves very well & the Celtic Challenge Cup at U 17 hurling is a competition which will grow further & which will assist us in developing our young hurlers. Stephen Glennon who has done such good work at underage hurling has stepped down & I thank him & wish him well in the future. Mark Dowd & his management team stepped down after two years at the helm of our U21 football side & I would like to thank them for their work which gained us a Connacht title in 2015. Kieran Kilkenny & his team has also stood down from minor management & I thank them as well. Adrian Dockery has taken on the under 21 management & Karl Foley has taken the minors & I wish them every success in their efforts in 2017.
Our Handball Committee continue their great work in promoting the code & this was rewarded this year when Fiona Tully brought home the All Ireland Minor singles title. Congratulations to her & Michael Naughton whose great work for handball down the years was rewarded with the national hall of fame Award.
Great credit is due to those involved in coaching at all under age levels in the county. The great work continues at coaching & this is exemplified by the success of our under 16 football squad who won the Fr Manning cup & the Ted Webb Shield & our U15 footballers who won the Adam Mangan national tournament beating Dublin in the final.
In Roscommon we have to maximise all our resources to compete with counties with greater populations. We have addressed this by appointing two new Games Promotion Officers Padraig Mitchell & Ollie Lennon & I am delighted that we have concluded a partnership with Roscommon County Council which will assist us further with our coaching.
Well done to all who won county titles, senior football championship St Brigids, senior hurling championship Oran, Intermediate Kilmore & junior Creggs. Clan na Gael won the O’Rourke Cup, Tulsk won the O’Gara Cup & Creggs who capped a great year by winning the Tansey Cup. I want to compliment all clubs for their efforts during the year & congratulate the winners of the various competitions.
I don’t have to remind anyone here that last year we encountered major issues with Dr Hyde Park. It transpired that we only had use of the grounds for one home league fixture. This created major difficulties not least the loss of revenue. I want to thank Longford & Leitrim County Boards & St Brigids for making Pearse Park & Park Sean MacDiarmada & Kiltoom available for our home games. This issue has been addressed & during the past months the pitch has been drained & resurfaced & will be available for our home fixtures in 2017. There is much else to be done to bring the grounds up to standard & we will continue discussions with Croke Park to bring this about.
Last May we launched The Dermot Earley Centre of Excellence in New York & three weeks ago we had the Roscommon launch. I want to thank our supporters in the US who have already given great support to this project & in particular the heads of the fundraising effort there: Adrian Jones, Irial Finan, Gerry Padian, Padraig Mac Breen, John Neary, Val McGlynn, Gerard Shivnan, Shane Naughton, Terry Connaughton, Pat Dolan, Enda Raftery, John Lyons, Jimmy Naughton Ciaran Keaveney & Tom Bennett. This is a significant project, to put in place training facilities for all our codes which is on par with what is available in other counties. Our ambition to compete at the highest level must be matched by a commitment to provide our teams with the best facilities & the Dermot Earley Centre is an absolute requirement. It is a project that must be delivered & a project that will be delivered.
It takes a lot of money to run all our activities & we are very grateful to our main sponsors Tom Hunt & Sean Mulryan, our Business Club Rossie members & the clubs & supporters who supports our fundraising. We owe a very great debt of gratitude to our fundraising arm Club Rossie under the leadership of David O’Connor who have done an enormous amount of work in raising funds & bringing a professional approach to our fundraising. I acknowledge & deeply appreciate the continued support we have received from business & the public & I would ask that this support be continued in order to deliver the projects we have planned. In addition to the other Club Rossie projects there is an innovative fundraiser the sale of squares in Hyde Park which I ask for your support for.
The role the GAA has played & is playing in Ireland & abroad is well documented & in this county it is very much our identity – it is what we are. But we face enormous challenges. In his address to the 2013 GAA Congress in Derry President Higgins referred to the terrible impact of emigration on the viability of clubs in rural Ireland. As a member of a club in North Roscommon I have witnessed the effects of this drain on our clubs & communities. If they are not emigrating many of our young players are migrating out of the county in order to to earn a living. In my own club this year over half the team, 9 players were travelling back to train with the panel each week.
The numbers of players living outside the county is an enormous challenge to our clubs & county. Given that we are competing against counties with vastly greater resources & less challenges it is important I my view to commence a discussion within the GAA as to how we might address this very real issue. The facts are that people follow work & where work is scarce as in many parts of Roscommon the GAA playing population is falling. It is our duty to argue the case for our clubs & communities & if the policy makers are not addressing this issue perhaps we should use our own network to lobby for & promote investment & jobs in our county.
Every year brings its sadness & this past year we lost two stalwarts Gerry O’Malley & Frank Dennehy. Gerry O Malley wore the primrose & blue in hurling & football with distinction for over 20 years. Frank was one of our most able & dedicated officials at Club & County level. Each of them represented what is best in our organisation & will be remembered fondly. To their families & the families of all who suffered bereavements I extend our sincere sympathy.
This is my first year as County Chairman & it was a baptism of fire. However, this is a team effort & I would like to acknowledge the great support & assistance I have received from County Secretary Brain Carroll, & my fellow Officers & Management Committee. Thanks to the Hurling Committee & the various Sub-Committees of the County Board for their work. To our Club Officers I also extend my thanks for their service to the GAA, the staff in the office, the gate collectors who do such good work in collecting our revenue & our referees without whom our games would not take place.
To my wife Geraldine & family I want to thank them for their patience, understanding & support & to let them know I will be home for Christmas.
The players who represent us in all codes carry our hopes & ambitions & they deserve our support & I would ask everyone to get behind all our teams in the coming year.
I wish you & your familys good luck & good health in 2017.
United let us go forward to be the very best we can be.