Chair sticks to his guns on Walsh Park

Waterford GAA Convention 2018

The planned redevelopment of Walsh Park remains the ‘only show in town’, a point that Waterford County Board Chairman Paddy Joe Ryan re-iterated at last Thursday’s GAA Convention at Lawlor’s Hotel.
Addressing delegates for the penultimate time as Cathaoirleach, Mr Ryan said that the Keane’s Road venue was “the only avenue (the Board wishes) to pursue as regards upgrading, due to its central location and its accessibility. It is important for people to bear in mind that all major county grounds around Ireland, including Croke Park, Thurles, Limerick, Killarney, Salthill and many others are located in cities or towns in the middle of residential areas”.

Attending Convention 2018 were Tommy Hennessy and Mark O'Regan of Kill GAA Club

Attending Convention 2018 were Tommy Hennessy and Mark O'Regan of Kill GAA Club

Regarding the Walsh Park project, the Chairman added: “There is absolutely no hidden agenda on our part. We all want the same thing – a suitable venue in this county at which to play our home league and championship matches that would be modern and contemporary, that can hold a reasonable crowd, bearing in mind that we can only expect it to be at capacity twice per year…If that is perceived by some as a lack of vision, then so be it…and hopefully we won’t be forced to defend ourselves anymore against the agenda being pedalled by some people who are working anonymously behind the scenes.”

From the floor, former county secretary Timmy O’Keeffe (Clashmore) called for Waterford to boycott the Munster Hurling Championship should the senior team not play at home in 2019.
To this, both Paddy Joe Ryan and current Secretary Pat Flynn stressed that the board “intended to play the games in Walsh Park”. The Munster Council is scheduled to inspect Walsh Park during the Christmas period, with the Chairman stressing: “Our new hurling manager has made it very clear that it is his desire to see our home championship games played at a Waterford venue in 2019 and we will be doing everything we can to make that happen.”

Saluting the “commendable” levels of sportsmanship demonstrated at all grades during 2018, the Chairman added: “We have seen lots of coverage in the national media in recent months about the abuse of referees and match officials across a number of sporting codes. The number of people interested in refereeing is dwindling and unfortunately many of our clubs are not providing any referees. On a national basis we, the CLG, need to make refereeing a more attractive prospect in order to recruit competent people to the job. Without referees, and officials our games could not take place so we need to ensure that they are properly supported and thereby respected.”

Financially, for the fourth successive year, the Board’s finances “are on an upward curve,” but
Paddy Joe Ryan also re-iterated that the costs of Waterford’s management teams “will have to be looked at” by delegates come the Board’s February meeting. He told delegates: “Finance is a constant challenge and I personally believe that many county boards will struggle to survive going forward if spending, particularly on inter-county teams, is not curtailed. It is my opinion that county panels across the country need to be reduced to a maximum of 30 and this needs to be a goal of the Association. It is also important to point out that although spending on inter-county teams have increased dramatically over the past number of years, our players have not benefited to the same degree…The goal for 2019 will be to set budgets and monitor them carefully, otherwise we will find ourselves back in a precarious position once more.”

Also addressing costs, County Treasurer John Jackson noted: “Right now, the hurlers are training four times a week, and the footballers are training three times a week, as they are preparing for the competitions beginning in a few weeks’ time. To be fair, the management of both teams are right to insist on preparing for these tournaments with a view to winning them. And, as someone who has been talking to hotels in recent weeks about the costs of meals for our teams next year, meal prices are going to go up next year by anything between €2 and €4 (per meal), when you take the VAT increase (up by 4.5% to 13.5% as of January 1st) into account.”

Club gates were up during 2018, “probably somewhat due in part to our early exit from the (inter-county) Championships and the fact that we could play our games in relatively good weather”. The Chairman added: “This is not a trend that we want to continue per se, it does shine a spotlight on the fact that people want to be going to matches in good weather and watching some high quality spectacles. The GAA will need to look at some way of harmonising the GAA inter-county and club calendars. Undoubtedly we had a hugely exciting inter-county Hurling Championship this year and many pundits were quick to laud it for its high entertainment value; however and undeniably, it has meant that the club player has suffered as a result.”

Paddy Joe Ryan continued: “In a recent article with the Irish Independent, Brian Cody spoke about how inter-county players are being slaughtered and club players are being isolated. I couldn’t agree more; something will need to be done to find a better balance. There needs to be a meeting of minds and a coming together on this issue. Everyone talks about the club and its importance and rightly so, but the GAA needs to take action on this and put the club back at the heart of the Association where it belongs.” In the sole election held on the night, Pat Grant joined John O’Leary as Waterford’s Munster Council delegates, with the Ballyduff Lower clubman having one further year to serve in the brief

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