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The Last Word: Winds of change can help Beara GAA emerge from storm

February 19th, 2017 6:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

For club, division and county: Beara's Andrew O'Sullivan (right) is one of many Beara footballers who have represented Cork over the years.

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Last Word Column by Sports Editor Kieran McCarthy

 

THE Beara coastline has felt the brunt of many storms over the years, and now the division’s GAA scene is experiencing a similar battering.

‘It’s a crisis,’ I was told this week, when inquiring about the current health of Beara GAA, which is 90 years old this year.

Next Monday night in Twomey’s Bar in Castletownbere, a special AGM will be held to fill four vacant positions on the Beara GAA board after four officers were recently found to have exceeded the five-year rule.

Terence O’Shea (vice-chairman), Finbarr Harrington (secretary), Danny Crowley (treasurer) and Seamus O’Shea (development officer) all had to step down from their positions following correspondence from the Cork County Board, who pointed out the breach of rules.

It’s left the Beara board in disarray in mid-February and there are no guarantees that these positions will be filled on Monday. This current debacle also highlights on-going problems in the western end of the county. Rural depopulation and emigration have decimated Beara GAA over the last few years, ravaging the local GAA scene and leaving it in turmoil.

In fairness, Beara GAA Coiste na nÓg is performing well, but it’s the adult section that is in need of an immediate overhaul, so it was no surprise to see former Cork minor manager Donal O’Sullivan, Castletownbere, ask in these pages this week for the county board to focus on Beara GAA as ‘a special project’, to help regenerate GAA in the division.

Beara GAA needs help and it also needs guidance from outside – but it has to take more responsibility and it needs to get its house in order, too. Yes, there are problems such as rural depopulation, emigration and declining numbers, but there seems to be a general lack of appetite between the six clubs in the division and the board; that’s not conducive to creating an environment that can put in place a viable plan for the future of Beara GAA.

For four officers of the board to exceed the five-year rule raises a few questions that we hoped would be answered this week – but our calls weren’t acknowledged or returned.

Last week Beara PRO Michael O’Neill highlighted the problem the division has experienced in getting people to fill positions on the board, a headache that other divisions and clubs can relate to.

The five-year rule means that rural areas like Beara always have one hand tied behind their back in terms of planning for the future because there is no continuity there – but the officers in place need to be innovative, forward thinking and blessed with bundles of energy and ideas; that’s how they will grab the younger generation’s attention. It’s this young generation that are future officers of the board, but there are so many distractions these days, you need to shout and fight for their attention.

That’s why I am astonished at adult Beara GAA’s lack of social media presence. There’s no Twitter, no Facebook, no website, nothing to engage that audience with.

Beara GAA Coiste na nÓg, in fairness, have Twitter and Facebook pages, but the adult section lets the side down. A social media presence is a must these days, but the Beara board comes up short here. 

There are 32 nationalities alone in Castletownbere, we are told, that’s a different culture than the GAA has traditionally had to appeal to, so it’s imperative to think outside the box. It’s quite simple: you either evolve or die.

The promotion of Beara GAA also leaves a lot to be desired. If it wasn’t for phone calls and texts from Finbarr Harrington over the last few years, we wouldn’t have known about junior championship matches, including divisional finals, taking place. Again, that’s not next or near good enough. 

On and off the field, Beara is making headlines for the wrong reasons and just as the board is struggling to make an impact, the division’s senior football team was in a similar position last season. Before their Cork SFC Round 2B game against Ballincollig in Bantry, Beara has to ring around before the match to find players with 13 of the players listed on the programme unavailable for selection.

Afterwards the Beara manager said: ‘We never really got together this year and I think we have to look again at where Beara football is going, in general. This won’t do going forward if we want to compete at senior level and it’s unfair on the lads who are giving their all for Beara.’

Beara GAA is at a crossroads, and in what should be a special year for the division with the 50th anniversary of their 1967 Cork SFC win and 20th anniversary of their 1997 Cork SFC triumph, instead they find themselves trying to put out fire after fire.

But the darkest hour comes just before the dawn.

Beara GAA needs a plan for the future and the first step towards that comes next Monday night with the election of officers to the board. 

The clubs need to make their voices heard, otherwise they have to shoulder some of the blame if this all collapses. There needs to be a will from everyone involved to embrace change, and new people bring with them new ideas.

Beara GAA has played an important role in Cork GAA over the years, and in recent times Ciarán O’Sullivan, Brendan Ger O’Sullivan, Andrew O’Sullivan and more wore the county jersey, and Cork GAA will benefit from a strong Beara division.

It’s time for the winds of change to blow through Beara, maybe then the storm clouds will go away.

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