Belfast Telegraph

Oisin McConville: More money should be spent on growing Gaelic games abroad

By Oisin McConville

In recent years, the GAA has acquired much more of an international arm, chiefly because of the exodus of people from this country as a result of the financial recession initially triggered in 2008 and the ongoing efforts of the Croke Park hierarchy to foster our games overseas.

Indeed, my understanding is that the committee responsible for overseas development is one of the busiest in the corridors of power at Headquarters.

Yet I remain convinced that more could be done to further promote and advance our codes in foreign parts.

My desire to see this happen has been fuelled by a recent trip I took to Qatar to see first hand the work that is being done there to nurture and expand the activities of the GAA.

I was stunned by the enthusiasm, commitment and obvious devotion of the people there for Gaelic games. And let me make it abundantly clear here that these people were not all of Irish descent.

When I saw the work that is being undertaken there - and I have no doubt the same effort is being expended in numerous other countries - to help keep the GAA flag flying, I could not help but reflect on the amount of money which I feel the Association is currently wasting and which would be better spent in helping these countries in the excellent promotional work they are doing.

I sincerely believe that rather than waste money on the Railway Cup, the International Rules series and substantial grants to the Gaelic Players Association, which I think must become much more self-supporting anyway, the GAA should channel more money into its units in far-flung places.

It's in locations like Australia, the United States, Europe, Canada, Asia and indeed Qatar that the GAA is proving a bonding influence within communities to such an extent that it is almost becoming a way of life for people.

I am aware, too, that the Association supports charitable causes in this country but I am of the opinion that perhaps if more money were made available for the overseas units, they would then be able to stand on their own two feet much sooner.

For me, it was heart-warming to see people like nurses, teachers, bankers, tradesmen and others energetically maintaining the sporting tradition of their own country in a foreign land.

These people make considerable self-sacrifices in order to participate fully in GAA activities and I think they should be given more of a helping hand from Headquarters. If this entails trimming back payments to other elements of the Association, then so be it.

Donegal All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Paul Durcan is currently doing his bit to cement the GAA foothold in Qatar in tandem with his former county colleague Ryan Bradley, while ex-Armagh player Barry Duffy from Lurgan is also very much to the fore.

Offaly man John Mollen is at the head of operations in Qatar while former Tyrone minor football ace Kevin Mossy from Gortin and well-known ladies footballer Lorraine Dolan from Crossmaglen are also at the hub of activities.

It's always encouraging when you hear Ulster accents while visiting a foreign country and the warmth of the welcome in Qatar was indeed overwhelming.

I know from experience that when GAA tournaments are held in countries such as Australia and the US it is not unusual for maybe 50 teams to be participating and in some countries matches can take place in 40 degrees of heat.

Quite often, even in this country, financial grants are dispensed but they do not filter down to the clubs at grassroots level.

I think that there is a very strong case for the overseas units to be afforded greater financial assistance as they bid to become more vibrant and robust.

It is possible that many people who have left these shores in recent years may never return.

For me, that is a very powerful reason for striving to ensure that the GAA and all it stands for becomes a vital component of their lives.

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