Investment in youth the key to ‘being the best we can be’

Club Eirne aims to take preparation for county sides to the next level.

Club Eirne aims to take preparation for county sides to the next level.

There was a fella who used to attend St Michael’s college and who had his own desk outside the Principal’s office for the greater part of sixth and seventh year. Roguish would be the loveable Irish way of describing his behaviour in school. He is now a policeman.

When the Principal who’s door he sat outside for those two years heard this news he proclaimed, ‘Ah, a true case of poacher turned gamekeeper.’

Chatting to a few friends over the past few weeks they said the same of me. For the last number of years regular readers of this column will know that I have been a critic of some aspects of fund raising that took place in Fermanagh. Specifically I felt that any fund raising group should be a part of the county board, as is the case with Club Tyrone. Secondly I felt that money raised should be used to tackle, in a strategic way, issues the county has from youth level right up to senior.

All this is of course is not to say that I did not respect and admire the work put in by all those individuals involved in fund raising previously. They put in serious effort and it goes without saying that they had, and continue to have Fermanagh’s best interests at heart. They are brilliant GAA people and deserve our gratitude.

Of course this sentiment of thanks is often lost when on the other hand there is clear criticism of the structures that were in place. But such is opinion writing and there is no point hitting the keyboard if you are not going to write about things as you see them.

Still, I have to admit to being a little surprised to find myself the Secretary of the relaunched Club Eirne. There is certainly more pressure this side of the fence. The truth is though that it would have been hypocritical on my part had I not got involved given the direction that is to be taken with the new Club Eirne.

I do however understand that people have concerns and questions. For example many have spoken to me in recent weeks and wondered why the name ‘Club Eirne’ was retained. Two opposing trains of thought here. One being that a fresh start needed a new name. While the other argued that continuity needed to be maintained while the retention of the name also tipped the hat to the efforts of the previous fund raising groups. I understand both sides of the argument and it is certainly important to acknowledge the work done in previous years.

On balance, I would probably have preferred a new name however. From a purely PR point of view it would have been easier to get across the message that a entirely new fund raising group had been established and that this group operated inside the county board if a new name was used. None of this is meant as a slight to those who went before but rather a cold hard business perspective.

However, the decision was taken by the Fermanagh County Board to retain the name. That is how democracy works. I can’t very well throw the toys out of the pram because of a decision the Fermanagh county board made considering I have been arguing for years that any fund raising committee needs to act within the Fermanagh county board. And as one member of the new Club Eirne said at a meeting, ‘We shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.’

But – and you knew there was a but – there also has to be a degree of trust between a group fund raising money for Fermanagh GAA and those charged with managing the affairs of Fermanagh GAA. And to this end we turn our attention to the soon to be released three year strategic plan. Already the research that has gone in to this plan has established areas that need attention and investment. These include youth coaching, the development of Lissan and county teams preparation.

Again, on these pages I have been arguing for a long time that an audit of some sort, followed by a strategic plan has been needed. Again, in an ideal world I would have preferred someone from outside the county be charged with leading a group to review all GAA matters within the county. But life, especially working within the GAA is full of compromises.

The crux of the matter though is that there is a blueprint for the future and there is a promise to invest more in youth. It is the only way forward in my opinion and this promise of more investment in youth is ultimately the reason why I have become involved.

I hope I, and the rest of my colleagues in Club Eirne can convince you to become involved too. We will be asking people to sign up to become members of Club Eirne. We want your input and your ideas. Over the coming months we will work on other fund raising initiatives to go alongside our membership scheme.

We do all of this with the one aim in mind; allowing Fermanagh to ‘be the best that we can be’. I honestly believe if we all work together we can achieve that goal.


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