Edwards in line to spark big shake-up in Antrim GAA
The Antrim GAA administration could be in for a major shake-up if St Paul's club stalwart Joe Edwards wins the three-horse race to succeed Collie Donnelly as county board chairman.
Edwards - who is currently a member of the county board, the Ulster Council and the provincial Competitions Control Committee - is convinced that Antrim's progress could be enhanced in key areas, including fund-raising and games promotion.
And he is adamant that a major overhaul of fixtures is required both within the county and at national level if the club player is to prosper.
His presence in the frame for the chairman's role is certain to add a decided edge to the annual county convention which is scheduled for December 3.
The ebullient Edwards - who is facing stiff competition from Owen Elliott (All Saints Ballymena) and Ciaran McCavana (St Enda's Glengormley) for the role - is known for his irrepressible zest and commitment to all things GAA, and has lost no time in putting his cards on the table ahead of what could prove to be a hugely important forum.
"In any committee I have led, my style has been to seek a contribution from everyone and that all share the workload," declares Edwards. "To this end, I would, if elected, seek to reinvigorate the County Committee, a body that for a number of years has not fulfilled its potential nor served its purpose.
"I have never been afraid to make the big decisions and I believe that these are required in relation to certain aspects of the current set-up."
Edwards, passionate in the pursuit of a more streamlined administrative set-up, is keen to see what he considers to be the apathy surrounding the Casement Park project banished and holds firm views on fund-raising.
"Through the many disappointments and setbacks which the project has suffered to date I have never lost faith that it will be completed," insists Edwards.
"At every opportunity, I raise at Ulster Council meetings the impact that being deprived of our spiritual home has on Antrim GAA. I feel that I am very well placed within Ulster to lead the push for the line from the Antrim side and that our children and young people will again grace Casement Park's surface both in inter-county and internal Antrim competitions."
With Cushendall having won the Ulster Club Senior Hurling Championship title, and St Enda's having reached the provincial junior club football championship final, there is cause for optimism within Antrim that the county can perhaps enjoy better times. While Edwards acknowledges the achievements of these clubs, he is particularly keen to see other teams take a leaf from their book.
It's on the thorny issue of fund-raising that the no-nonsense Edwards holds particularly strong views. He is critical of the way money has been allocated in the past and lays his views firmly on the line in this connection, his feeling being that too much is invested in the preparation and training of the various county teams in different codes.
"Just as important as raising money are the areas in which we spend our cash. I would inaugurate a Capital Projects Fund to further the completion of vital projects such as Dunsilly," states Edwards.
"I think that the time is right for our county teams to work to a pre-agreed budget, based on the needs of the teams and the demands of other areas of our development such as coaching and games promotion, with all being subject to affordability.
"I am particularly attracted to the Cork model. There we have a county with a large business base and major sponsors. Yet the largest raft of capital available to Cork comes from a very successful Lotto. I believe that the creation of a working Antrim Supporters Club could aid such an endeavour within our county and help people to become shareholders in our great Association.
"I appreciate the huge difference made to our income by the Antrim Business Forum. I would seek to further develop the work being done by this body.
"Over the last few years I have felt that the work of the Business Forum could be enhanced and supplemented by the provision of an enduring and steady vehicle for the ordinary member or supporter of the Association in Antrim to contribute to the financial affairs of the county."