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Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Thiobraid Árann

Westside column – December 19th 2015

December 16th, 2015

The convention season is in full swing at the moment with the county session scheduled for this Thursday night. No major changes are anticipated at the Dome, unlike the West where there was a significant changing of the guard last week.

There was a time in the GAA calendar when conventions were significant events. Officers’ addresses were seen as noteworthy and canvassing never disqualified candidates. Some of those contests were legendary battles, often as vigorously fought as any on-field tussle.

I’m around long enough to remember the ongoing set-to between the late John Doyle and Mick Maguire for Central Council representation in the seventies and eighties. It became something of a Lanigan’s Ball affair where John stepped out and Mick stepped in again as they alternated possession.

Then there was the era of challenges to PRO Liz Howard before Ed Donnelly eventually unseated her in 2003. The late Tommy Barrett was opposed by Jerry Ring on a few occasions and those challenges paved the way for Michael O’Brien to eventually succeed the long-time secretary. These were eagerly awaited contests where the canvassing was often as intense as any political election.

Those events often enlivened otherwise drab conventions but it was a different era. Nowadays there’s not the same enthusiasm for chasing board positions so people often step in without any ballot. Limiting the terms of officers has had an impact too. The era of the long-server is over so openings appear more often.

In the West last week Tom English’s term as chairman came to an end and his place was taken by Clonoulty’s John O’Shea. In his playing days the ex-Garda was quite a capable goalie and wore the Tipp jersey at different levels. He was on the county minor hurling panel back in 1970 but football was his main game. He was a county U21 footballer in 1973 when they lost narrowly to Cork and then spent five years with the senior footballers.

I remember him playing with Kickhams at some stage too. It was part of a so-called gentlemen’s agreement back then. Maybe he won’t like me reminding him of it though there’s a good Knockavilla family link through his late mother. The outgoing chairman, Tom English, is his brother-in-law so they’re keeping it in the family.

Anyway he becomes the latest in a long line of chairmen that stretches back to Bill O’Dwyer (Sonny) at the start of the Board in 1930. Bill’s brother, Jack, was easily the most colourful of all West chairmen – as well as the longest serving. His convention addresses had plenty of rhetorical flourishes and still make for great reading.

The West also has a new secretary after Michael Long’s term came to an end; Cappawhite’s Michael McCarthy takes over the pen. Board finances will be handled by Michael Devlin, who hails from Tyrone and reigns in Annacarty. He takes over from Sean Bradshaw, whose assistant, Willie O’Grady, also steps aside.

The decline of senior hurling in the division is likely to impact severely on the Board’s finances. With just three senior sides this year the money-making potential of the hurling championship is very limited.

At County Board level there’s likely to be a ballot for the position of treasurer. Eamon Buckley retires after a very successful stint as minister for finance and it seems that Michael Power (Newcastle) and Willie Lennox (Shannon Rovers) will face-off in a ballot to succeed him. The Shannon Rovers’ man has just finished his term as North treasurer and Michael Power was previously assistant to Eamon Buckley. It will be interesting to see how that one goes. If Willie Lennox is unsuccessful there it seems he will face a contest with Liz Flanagan (Holycross) for the position of assistant treasurer. Liz has become a familiar figure on the gates around Mid Tipperary in recent years.

As usual Tim Floyd has produced an excellent convention handbook which details all of the GAA events in Tipperary throughout the past year. It’s a very thorough record of all activity. These booklets are invaluable, providing a priceless record of events for future generations. In the ‘Yearbook’ Seamus King describes the convention handbook as ‘a magnificent publication’, a sentiment I fully endorse. Perhaps the general public doesn’t fully appreciate the value of these handbooks but anyone who has done research will understand.

Tim outlines all the activities throughout the year with each match neatly summarised. (A minor crib is the formatting where huge blocks of print could have done with paragraphing and sub-headings to make it more readable).

It’s not a year that will live too long in the memory, especially at senior level. The Munster final win was a moment of cheer alright but it’s overshadowed by the subsequent defeat to Galway which gave the season its mournful colour. Tim describes the Galway display that day as coming ‘like a bolt out of the blue’. I’m not so sure about that. Galway’s threat was well flagged in advance especially after their win over Cork so there should have been no surprise.

Both Tim Floyd and J.J. Crowley chronicle our minor teams on their respective journeys to Croke Park but neither offers any comment on the dual player issue apart from a cursory listing of the over-lapping players. That surprises me. It was surely a major topic during the year and remains a hot issue for 2016 yet there’s a reluctance to even express views.

Our minor and U21 hurling managers for 2016 have both expressed serious concerns about the dual player issue. As the ones working at the coalface they are best placed to know about the problems yet others remain oblivious.

Despite the omission in the handbook the issue might get an airing at convention because the Burgess club has a motion listed seeking that ‘no individual player may represent Tipperary on more than one panel in either hurling or football’. The motion goes on to allow for exceptions with U21 and senior but the gist of the proposal is to end the system which last year saw an overlap of nine players between minor hurling and football.

I hope it will at least lead to discussion at convention even though it has no chance of being passed. And please let the debate be reasoned and rational. I was part of a recent discussion on the issue on local radio where Tiger Woods’ knees were cited as a reason why players should play both hurling and football. Indeed. I suppose when you’re defending the indefensible it does lead to twisted logic.
Ultimately there’s still no appetite for biting the bullet on this issue in Tipperary so don’t expect us to follow the lead of other counties.

The St. Mary’s club has a motion on the ‘clar’ seeking a so-called champions’ league type of Liam McCarthy championship involving the top nine teams in the country. They’d also retain knock-out Munster and Leinster championships with curious tie-ups where some games would double as provincial and All Ireland fixtures. There’s much more detail than I’m giving here but it all sounds a bit convoluted and unlikely to gain much traction.

Incidentally I’m told of a change of officership in the Clonmel club coming so soon after their historic minor hurling breakthrough. Interesting.

Finally as we head into the Christmas celebrations may I offer season’s greetings to readers. 2015 left us with many regrets. Here’s hoping 2016 brings better things for both codes.


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