Tourmakeady's Kevin O'Toole was elected to the post of County Secretary at the 2011 Mayo GAA Convention held in Geesala at the High Chaparral on Monday night. The former County PRO held off the challenge of sitting assistant secretary Vincent Neary and Burrishoole delegate Margaret O'Malley when the votes were counted in north Mayo. Neary held on to his position as assistant secretary for 2012 after a vote, with Achill's Packie McGinty taking over as Mayo GAA President after he was elected unopposed alongside the majority of other returning officers. The other major position up for election was that of Croke Park delegate where the incumbent delegate Jerry Henry from Castlebar Mitchels was challenged by retiring county secretary Séan Feeney. After the votes were counted the Castlebar man held on to the position for another year.
The well attended convention was dominated in the early stages of the meeting by talk of the finances of the county board in relation particularly to McHale Park. The issue saw the Ballinrobe club abstaining from voting for the election of any officer in protest. Ballinrobe delegate Alan Flannery told the convention: “ I have a statement I'd like to read from Ballinrobe GAA Club at this time at the election of officers. Ballinrobe GAA Club would like to record their dissatisfaction at the way the activities of this board has been administered in recent times.The fact that the final figures of the McHale Park development were only released is a serious worry for our club. This debt has the potential to cripple the GAA in this county for many years to come and will impact on every GAA club in the county. Our club has regularly voiced its dissatisfaction at the figures and related matters in the only forum available to us at county board meetings. However we are also at a loss to understand why so many clubs seem to be so passive on this matter. We would hope in the future that those who will come to board meeting will have the courage of their convictions and speak their minds. We wish to make a protest tonight that we are disappointed that the financial information that was made available a couple of weeks ago was not made known to clubs in advance of the close of nominations for this convention. Thus the only protest open to us tonight is to abstain from voting on all election contests this approach received unanimous backing of our members at our AGM. We also reiterate that even though we are not voting tonight we expect successful candidates to give us the kind of service in their roles that every club deserves, we pay our fees and make our contributions just like everyone else.” County Board Chairman Paddy McNicholas responded to the statement saying, “It's a pity you’re not voting and making your contribution to who will be elected tonight.”
Flannery first raised the issue of the McHale Park debts at the convention asking about the latest position in regard to the restructuring and plan the board has to submit to Croke Park and the banks in relation to the repayment. Chairman Paddy McNicholas told the meeting that “Our restructuring, it has gone to Croke Park and they are looking at it at the moment, then we'll be back meeting the banks, that's as far as it has gone at the moment to Croke Park.” When pushed by Flannery as to whether there will be more money needed to pay off the debts next year than was required this year, McNicholas responded saying “We'll be paying more than that, we have made proposals to Croke Park whether the banks accept it or not I don't know.”
What will the new arrangements be?
The issue of what these new arrangements will be was asked by a number of delegates with the top table responding: “The idea was that when they were finalised and we expect they will be, they will be made known to all the clubs at a meeting. It's an extension of the term and we intend to go on to capital and interest over 25 years at the present rate and if the ECB rate continues to drop we'll keep repaying the money and pay it off quicker. It's better we wait for agreed proposals and then come back and tell you the full story. The plan is that what is being paid towards McHale Park will still be enough without going to clubs, that was always the plan and still is. The County Board draw and fundraising will cover these repayments and that is still the plan.”
The issue of the board agreeing to a restructuring plan without the consent of the clubs being given was raised by the Ballinrobe delegation with Flannery stating, “I want to be certain the clubs will have a vote on the restructuring and it won't be something that will be put to us after the restructuring is agreed. That we will get a chance to vote on it and if it has any impact on us down the road. It can't be a decision made totally by the top table, because all the clubs income and revenue is totally dependent on knowing if we have extra commitments to the county board we need to know about it so we can go about planning in advance. I want to ask the top table to make sure, before the dotted line is signed on restructuring it is put to a county board meeting and we all have an input here.” Chairman Paddy McNicholas responded saying, “It has already been pointed out that we will be able to make those commitment without looking for further assistance from clubs, we'll be able to do it from our county board draw, our sponsorship, gate receipts, advertising and grants from Croke Park.”
Extra funding for hurling requested
The issue of the cost of running the inter county hurling teams in relation to the amount of revenue generated by the teams was raised with Aidan Brennan saying, “The costs to the county of maintaining our interest in hurling at a national level. Last year it was pointed out the costs of hurling for counties like us and many other counties and there is no income from it to us. The costs are prescribed at Croke Park in relation to expenses and others. Last year we asked could it be raised at central council level in relation to funding for counties which are promoting the game and can't get an income out of it, was it taken anywhere or have we made any moves to recruit any-other county ? Because I note Cavan had to pull out of all competitions this year because they couldn't afford it I'm not suggesting that we would ever do anything like that. There are a lot of counties out there who could be pulled together to put pressure at central council level to ensure were properly funded to promote the game.” Chairman Paddy McNicholas responded saying, “No I don't think anything was done on it. We'll take it up this year we'll write to Croke Park and see what kind of support we can get for the other counties for it.”