Belfast Telegraph

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GAA clubs 'fighting to stay afloat'

By John Campbell

Antrim chairman Jim Murray admits that virtually every club in the county is experiencing financial difficulties.

Murray's frank assessment comes in the wake of the decision by the Sean McDermott's club to close its social club and terminate its adult teams.

And the chairman does not see an improvement in the foreseeable future.

"Clubs are going through very difficult times," concedes Murray. "The finance that once was there with social clubs and through sponsors just isn't there any longer.

"The economic climate at this current time makes it more difficult for clubs to gather funding.

"All clubs in Belfast are experiencing immense difficulties in making their insurance payments, which is probably the first thing that clubs do, to ensure players' safety.

"That's the sort of expense that is increasing all the time. Clubs are working very hard and all credit to them to make sure all of that is in place."

The county board is currently making strenuous efforts to assist clubs, particularly those which find themselves in a serious financial plight.

"It is difficult for clubs, absolutely," he added. "We are working with all the clubs to put in place procedures, risk assessments, financial assessments, financial committees to make sure that they can try and cope with the situation in which they find themselves."

Yet while the Antrim board is locked in an ongoing battle to ensure that clubs can cope with their problems, the chairman remains optimistic that the corner can be turned – although he acknowledges that this may take time.

"When you see a unit of the Association like the McDermott's club closing it is indeed a sad day," adds Murray.

"When it is considered that the club has been in existence since 1932 it becomes even more poignant.

"But there must always be optimism because that's what we are all about. We are about capacity building.

"We have been working tirelessly with our development squads and we want to get as many juveniles and indeed as many people as possible playing our games."

"It means we will double up on our efforts to make sure we have the structures and procedures in place to help clubs and make sure this does not happen again."

Despite the ravages of the recession and changing social trends, clubs in west Belfast have continued to spawn hugely talented players such as Brian Neeson (St John's) who was outstanding for Antrim in the recent Allianz League.

The difficulties being experienced by clubs contrast sharply to the massive expenditure that is being ploughed into the re-development of Casement Park but this project is being financed from several sources.

In the past, GAA units in west Belfast in particular benefited from income from thriving social clubs but with young people are now flocking to other venues this source of funding has largely dried up.

Yet many clubs throughout the province and not just in Antrim are continuing to battle against mounting odds in a bid to stay afloat and will continue to do so.

Quite a number have invested heavily in developing new pitches and clubhouses while many boast floodlighting.

But with various clubs having been hit hard by emigration – one Down club has lost no fewer than 26 playing members over the past three years – and unemployment still rife in some areas, the burden of raising finance has become almost intolerable.

The fact that underage teams in particular require to be funded in order to ensure the very future of clubs means that officials and coaches are forced to undertake a miscellany of tasks.

Antrim supremo Murray maintains that the voluntary ethic within the GAA is one of the chief reasons why the Association will be able to continue to battle against the rising costs of staying in existence.

"A lot of people at grassroots level are doing excellent work in terms of keeping clubs going and bringing on a new generation of players," states Murray.

"That's the only way the future of the Association can be assured. It is recognised at the highest level that we face competition from other sports but we have to fight.

"I am confident that the spirit which prevails within the Association will see us come true but the going is tough."


Cavan manager Peter Reilly believes that his team's rigorous examination by Donegal in the Ulster final will stand them in good stead when they confront title favourites Dublin in tomorrow's All-Ireland semi-final at Portlaoise.

It was an amazing last four minutes during which they posted 1-3 that took Cavan to victory over a Donegal side that had held the upper hand for the second-half.

Reilly said: "The game is never over until the man in the black outfit sounds the final whistle but you would have to say that we were fortunate against Donegal," admits Reilly.

"That's the way the game is at this level. Matches are invariably decided by small margins and I have no doubt that this will be the case again tomorrow. We were lucky to get a purple patch against Donegal but we don't want to go to the wire in the same way tomorrow."

Belfast Telegraph


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