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Marsden keen to see the personal touch restored as easing of restrictions would allow for long-term planning


Face time: Diarmaid Marsden is hoping for in-person meetings

Face time: Diarmaid Marsden is hoping for in-person meetings

Face time: Diarmaid Marsden is hoping for in-person meetings

Diarmaid Marsden, the Ulster Council's Head of Community Development, has a special reason for hoping for a full-scale easing of the current Covid-19 restrictions.

With clubs set to return to training next Monday and county squads primed to begin their build-up to the playing season a week later, there is an expectation that even further amendments to current protocols could be in the offing.

And Marsden, who has been behind several cross-community initiatives in the past, has cause for relief as this will allow him to plan even more avidly for the future.

A 2002 All-Ireland winner with Armagh, Marsden is particularly anxious to see personal contact restored via meetings, get-togethers, seminars and forums.

"While I don't have a problem with Zoom, I feel that person to person contact is an essential ingredient within the GAA as we know it," insisted Marsden. "I think the sooner we are able to have face to face contact the better. I totally understand the need for the restrictions, and hopefully the Covid-19 threat will continue to recede, but I know that we can't take anything for granted in this connection.

"In conversations I have had with other people, I know they are equally keen to get round the same table at a meeting. There is never any shortage of tasks to be faced up to in the GAA, and certainly on the community front I would be particularly keen to see our mission resumed on a personal level."

Marsden's passionate commitment to helping to make the GAA as inclusive as possible is proving a driving force and has helped to underpin the progress which has been made by the Community Development department.

"Real headway can only be made by people coming together. Going forward, we will be keener than ever to achieve further goals so that we can help strengthen communities," stated Marsden.

As well as spearheading the Community Development project, Marsden is also a dynamic presence within his own Clan na gael club.

When an initial meeting to launch a new three-year Strategic Plan was held in January last year, there were 120 people present. Since then, Zoom get-togethers and telephone conversations have tended to dominate, although Marsden admits that this helped to attract some VIPs on board for the Strategic Plan launch.

"We were very fortunate in that we have had contributions from GAA President Larry McCarthy, Ulster chairman Oliver Galligan and Jarlath Burns on behalf of the county board, which was very encouraging," explained Marsden. "Maybe had times been normal their diaries might not have allowed that, so we're not complaining."

And the drive to formulate what will be an elaborate programme for next year's club centenary celebrations has also been stepped up.

"When you have someone like Jimmy Smyth in there pushing things along, you know that progress is going to be made," said Marsden.

Meanwhile, as clubs and county boards on this island probe for new measures to boost their fundraising, New York GAA chairperson Joan Henchy has hit out at counties who continue to bolster their coffers at the expense of the 'Big Apple' GAA board.

Henchy maintained that "counties are coming in here and it is like a cash cow", and added: "We've brought this to the attention of Central Council after having discussed it at length.

"There's no recognition of our board, there's no question of us being included, organisers are just going to take $500,000 out of a function downtown and that's that."

Henchy's anger is understandable. When Mayo travelled to face New York in the Connacht Championship opener two years ago, their weekend itinerary bore all the hallmarks of a major fundraising exercise.

The elaborate arrangements would have done justice to visiting VIPs. And the match? Mayo won by 1-22 to 0-4. Say no more.

Belfast Telegraph

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