Leitrim Hurling Manager Statement.
The GAA’s motto is ‘Where we all belong’; it hasn’t felt like we all belong in the past couple of weeks if you’re a Leitrim hurler. We can be cut loose; cut adrift. We’re expendable. I’ve held my counsel for long enough.
This is the third attempt to get rid of the Leitrim hurling team or remove us from the league in a year. Two attempts were made to do so at county board level which never made it further than the executive. Now, attempt number three comes at national level.
I want to be respectful but, given what has been said by our county board treasurer in the media at the weekend, I have to put some context out there.
Some players who have given their absolute best for Leitrim have also had their character and ability called into question in the wording of the CCCC proposal. They deserve better.
I have known for some time that our county board treasurer has been one of the biggest supporters of the CCCC proposal. He laid out his case at the weekend. I want to provide some context.
The estimated set of accounts I was shown a number of weeks ago showed costs of €203,000 based upon both the senior hurling team and the U17 hurling team. We immediately offered to fundraise to help with these costs but were told not to. When we looked into it further, the net cost of hurling was just over €70,000 to the County Board.
Leitrim supporters will be well aware of the 50 Mile Challenge that was undertaken and the sale of Leitrim Supporters Club Tickets. The funds raised were split between Senior, U20 and U17 inter-county football teams and the Senior and U17 hurling teams. Of the money raised, the 2 hurling teams combined only received 1.6%. The senior hurling team was allocated just 0.8%. The remaining 98.4% was distributed to three other inter-county teams.
How is it fair that for every €100 raised by the good people of Leitrim out walking in the rain or buying a supporters club ticket, just 80 cents went to the Senior Hurling Team? How was it decided that Leitrim hurlers should be allocated so little from the fundraising drive?
We have been waiting for the finalised set of accounts for weeks now. The €203,000 figure presented to me in the estimated accounts, became €208,000 when it was presented to the County Board Executive and is now being publicly stated as €215,000.
If the accounts are not finalised how can a member of our County Board publicly quote any figure and use it as a reason to support the CCCC proposal? The Treasurer has also quoted a figure of a net cost of €80,000 to the County Board – €10,000 more than our calculations.
What is the basis for these figures? What are the actual figures? These are all legitimate questions.
Supposing the €203,000 figure I was presented with weeks back is more or less correct, let’s break this down a little.
First, there are items outside of our control. We had two trips to England in both the League and the Championship. Both of these are subject to a grant from Croke Park and we remained within the limits of these grants. There was no added cost to Leitrim GAA.
We also don’t have access to the Centre of Excellence in Annaduff on a Friday night. This dramatically increased the players’ travel expenses because we had to train on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which also put considerable strain on the players. I raised this issue with our Treasurer and was told nothing could be done as both pitches and gym were being used.
Therefore, we took steps ourselves to resolve that issue. Bornacoola GAA have kindly given us the use of their astro turf pitch of Friday nights to allow us train. This should have a major impact in terms of reducing associated costs.
When you take these two items alone off the €203,000, the figure could come down to anywhere between €150,000 and €160,000. Players are also now running a fundraising campaign with a target of €20,000, which is within reach. This again reduces costs to the County Board.
The figure of €203,000 (or €208,000 or €215,000, which ever figure is actually correct) is misleading. With grants coming from the GAA, cost saving and fundraising by management and players and a fair allocation of money from the County Board fundraisers, it should be possible to bring the net cost of hurling down to very low levels.
There are real, practical solutions here that don’t involve killing hurling in Leitrim for the sake of saving money. And make no mistake, that is what the CCCC proposal is all about.
We know we are a small county. We know we don’t have endless resources. We know that football takes precedence. We’re willing to find solutions but we also expect fair play and not to be made a mockery of.
Travel expenses are a huge issue and there is no getting away from that fact. Both hurling and football have this challenge. There are a number of lads based in Galway and Dublin etc, but is that their fault? I know nearly all of them come home every weekend and spend as much time in Leitrim as they can. Leitrim is a fantastic place to live and most of the people from Leitrim who don’t live here do so through necessity rather than choice.
Most of these young men have to leave because of employment opportunities or to go to college. I have seen first-hand the effort it takes to get to training and their dedication is now being held up as a problem. We should be commending these lads for their commitment not using it against them.
On that point, there has been a disgraceful attempt to smear the Leitrim hurling team. I still have not been told who provided the information included in the ‘proposal’ to Croke Park or how they got it. But when I read it, I was both angry and disappointed that someone from our own GAA community could do this to their own county men.
There are 5 players not playing their hurling within the county. But to try use lads like Joe Murray and David McGovern to make us look bad is very wrong. David in particular is someone who has given nearly twelve years to Leitrim GAA, has parents with a proud Mohill connection, and while living in Dublin calls himself a Dublin/Leitrim man. This is not right in my opinion.
Then you have reference to 6 players not playing in the County Hurling Final. Again, absolutely no context given. Stephen Goldrick and Liam Moreton both got injured with their football club. Paul Lenehan suffered 2 concussions in the space of a number of weeks and so the 3 of these were ruled out through injury.
The final was a week later than usual and one man had his honeymoon booked and another had a family holiday booked. The sixth man was Arron McLoughlin from Fenagh. He used to play his hurling with Ballinamore. He is someone we thought had potential and we were right. He played in both league and championship this year for our county.
How can someone from our own GAA community portray their fellow county men like this?
On the proposal itself, everyone agrees that we need more clubs and more hurling, but we have asked for a full time GDA every year for nearly 10 years and have been refused. Even in 2017, a year in which our Treasurer has publicly stated the cost of hurling was just €75,000, we were refused. So why would it change now on the back of this proposal?
This is just a cost cutting exercise dressed up as something else. There is no plan in place, no estimate on figures, no concrete evidence to show that anything will ever be done. We currently have a hurling GDA split between us and Sligo – 30% Leitrim 70% Sligo. It’s an impossible task to ask anyone to do.
But in reality we only need to come with another 70% to have our own full time GDA. I don’t think that’s impossible, especially now on the back of the publicity generated by this proposal. I would also like to point out that when we had a full time hurling GDA we had 4 hurling clubs and since that financial backing has been withdrawn that number has dropped to 2. Again not the fault of the current group of inter county hurlers.
Hurling has been under-funded in this county for years and now the people that have kept it alive are being asked to pay the price. Rather than being encouraged in our efforts to keep alive a game recognised by UNESCO, we’re being told it’s better to pull the plug. Take it off life-support. Let it slip away. When it’s gone, it will never come back.
As I said at the start of this, the GAA’s motto is ‘Where we all belong’. If the Leitrim hurlers don’t belong in Leitrim GAA, then where do they belong?
Leitrim Hurling Manager.