LAST Thursday signalled a historic shift in Gaelic games.
For the first time, the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association announced that draft memorandums of understanding has been drawn up between the three bodies. Having been a topic of discussion for so long, it makes sense that such a collaboration would come to pass. By knocking heads together under a common goal, surely substantial rewards for all codes will be reaped?
After six months of discussions between the three bodies, each will now meet and hopefully approve the memorandums, beginning with the Camogie Association on March 14th, with the other two doing so later in the month.
Camogie President Catherine Neary laid out the benefits of collaboration with the GAA very clearly.
‘We both have resources that are useful to each other,’ she said, ‘we are both doing a lot of things that are similar. Why wouldn’t we want to maximise those resources for our shared visions and goals? We are all part of the Gaelic games family and this is the best way to move our games forward.
‘In our point of view, it is a very positive development and if approved, will give us access to all the expertise the GAA has in terms of coaching, governance, commercial, referees and so on. And we can bring another viewpoint and skills in those areas to the GAA. It is very exciting.’
The response online has been mainly positive. Players and people want to see a change – in the past, we seemed to constantly fight in an antagonistic fashion when it came to game fixtures and advertising both female and male sport in an equal manner.
Outgoing GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl cited a ‘new overall organisational model within which the games, ideals and aspiration of all three Associations are equally developed and promoted’. He also mentioned that we are all part of the same Gaelic games ‘family’. There are many things all three have in common and so it makes sense to try and marry all these families closer together to create a type of super-family!
The words are very positive and endearing and you have to commend all the work these governing bodies have undertaken to set the wheels in motion.
Previously, I have mentioned that the Camogie Association have a National Development Plan called ‘Our Sport, Our Future 2016-2019’. One of the aims within this timeframe was to create closer links and to further strengthen relationships with the GAA. I am sure they must be thrilled to see their vision finally realised and strengthened even further with the LGFA body.
According to Catherine Neary, this unity between all three codes will have many benefits in the areas of improved coaching, governance, the commercial arena, developing referees and much more.
The LGFA and its president Marie Hickey are also busy drawing up and finalising their strategic plan up to 2022 and this collaboration will surely feature strongly in it.
Each association will fortify each other with the resources it can provide and the vision they can all create together. Why keep all ideas to yourself; with more people thinking together a thought can grow into something very special when teased out and planned out side by side.
Here in my home in Middletown in Armagh, I can happily say that I am part of a Gaelic games family. We are one of the few clubs in operation in Ireland where all separate codes have undergone talks to amalgamate under the one umbrella and at the AGM in February, the motion to create one Gaelic games family was passed. We now operate under the title of Middletown GAC.
This is a historic step forward for all and while it took months, even years of talks, the overwhelming feeling was that the collaborative effort of all working together can bring more positive than negative. We are one of the lucky ones. A positive relationship exists between the hurlers, the footballers, the recently formed ladies’ football and the camogie club.
We all still have our own club names, for example the camogie club is called St John’s and the hurling Middletown Na Fianna, but we will all operate under the one umbrella and will be governed by an overriding executive committee.
Our jersey colours will remain the same, however the crests may change once we monitor the exciting new year of sport ahead of us.
What is even better about this change is there is both a male and female presence among the executive committee to ensure all voices can and will be heard.
The positives are clearly there to be seen. By working together, all our fundraising and promotion of the club can be completed together. All codes can enjoy and utilise the facilities the club can offer as well as having a say and vision on how to improve and progress what the club can develop. There will also be a door opened to better coaching and refereeing and more bodies to call upon.
The codes will still be operating within their own sub-committees, so the burden of the executive making all the initial decisions will be alleviated by more people helping out to ensure things run smoothly. It may also get more youth involved in playing Gaelic games when families become more aware of what the club can offer to them.
For us, it is an exciting venture that no doubt will experience teething problems in its initial year, however this can only be expected and it will challenge us more to improve further along the way.
A new day is dawning, collaboration is becoming more popular and significant. No doubt in years to come we will have the knowledge of more and more clubs developing their own ‘one club’ approach.