Cork GAA chairperson determined to help struggling clubs
TRACEY Kennedy insists she’ll do everything in her power to ensure that no Cork GAA club goes out of existence.
The Cork GAA chairperson admits that a number of clubs around the county are struggling for numbers and a new sub-committee tasked with identifying these clubs will also work to put supports in place.
Kennedy was speaking at the launch of the new Beara GAA website at the Berehaven Lodge, Castletownbere, as she spent two days visiting clubs in the division and listening to the challenges and problems they face.
It was an eye-opener, she admits.
‘Numbers are a big thing,’ Kennedy says,
‘The reality is that the majority of employment is away from here so clubs face problems because of rural depopulation – that’s a huge challenge for clubs in Beara.
‘The distance too for clubs, let’s say, that have underage sections and are involved in Rebel Óg, some of the travelling is very onerous. I met parents of kids who are involved in development squads and the distance that they have to travel for training, it’s a total different level of commitment compared to a parent from my own club, for example, who is only 23 miles from Cork. Parents in Beara are driving at least an hour and a half one-way for development squad training.
‘There are huge, real challenges for clubs that those of us nearer the centre of activity don’t take into account when planning.’
Engaging with the six Beara clubs and listening to their concerns has reinforced to Kennedy the challenges that exist and that there are GAA clubs in Cork facing a fight to survive.
‘Partly why I am here is to find out what the clubs here think we can do. I want that to inform my thinking,’ she says.
‘What’s becoming clear to me is that Cork is such a diverse county, so a solution that works in one area isn’t going to work in another. Maybe we need a bit of flexibility in our thinking and in our structures.
‘We are concerned. I’ve set up a sub committee to look at the possibility of clubs who might run out of numbers. There is a difference between a poorly-managed club and a club who genuinely does not have children in its schools or in its area.
‘We want to identify those clubs and their problems, and see what supports we can put in place. It might take some creative thinking but I do not want to lose any club.
‘I don’t want a club going out of existence, and there is a very real possibility of that for a small number of clubs in the county.’
Kennedy admits that a ‘small’ number of clubs in Cork could ‘potentially be in trouble’, but the board is prepared to work hard to help them survive.
‘We don’t want it to be a case that a club goes out of existence because we didn’t do enough,’ the Cork chairperson says.
‘If that means to go actively into a club and help them to put better structures in place, we’ll help, or if it means looking at other solutions, we’ll explore them too.’
On her visit to Beara, Kennedy met with officers and club members of all six clubs – Bere Island, Castletownbere, Garnish, Urhan, Adrigole and Glengarriff – and she admits she has a deeper appreciation for Beara GAA, its clubs and its people now.
‘I came down at the start of the year to support the Beara board in their efforts to elect a new board,’ she explains.
‘I began to realise the reality of Beara GAA. Even the journey, it’s a two-hour drive from my front door to Castletownbere. If I drove two hours north from home I’d nearly be in Dublin. It just brought home to me the scale of the county and you can understand why the clubs here might feel a bit left out from decisions that are being taken and so on, because, geographically, they are so far from the centre of all our activities.
‘Going back to my days as PRO and vice-chairperson, it had been in my mind to come down, spend a few days in Beara and go around to the clubs. Someone can tell you what conditions are like and what challenges they have – but it’s important to see them for yourself and hear first-hand from the people involved.’