With work underway on the exciting new £3.8m Clydebank Sports Hub redevelopment in Glasgow, Damian Dolan ask all seven counties to outline their hopes and expectations for what is already shaping up to be another exciting year for the GAA in Britain
The priority for the county board in 2018 has to be the submission of plans for the relocation of Pairc na hEireann, and meeting the August deadline.
We’re working closely with Croke Park and their architect, as well as with local planners, to ensure that our plans do not delay construction of the relief road just off junction six of the M42, and which will run through one of the current pitches at Pairc na hEirenan.
The new grounds will be the best GAA facility in the world outside of Ireland.
On the pitch, we also plan to again our underage hurling initiative, after the success of last year’s drive.
The single most satisfying moment of 2017 was seeing 70 plus U12s to U17s playing hurling, and to consolidate this scheme we plan to run blitzes and games between newly formed teams, as well as the possibly of taking teams to compete in the All Britain Competition.
The future of hurling in Warwickshire lies in home-grown talent, and that future is in our hands as a board and as a county.
Last year the county’s senior champions had ten home-grown players in their starting team. Retention, therefore, is an area we’re allocating a huge amount of time and resources.
We need to be able to offer young men and women, aged between 17-21, the opportunities to stay involved in the GAA, whether that be through playing, refereeing, club responsibilities or coaching. As a board we have to make sure those opportunities exist for them.
This year we also want to strengthen our ties with the county’s ladies board and to explore ways we can develop alongside each other, to continue to succeed.
We also want to engage more younger members attending county board meetings, and get them involved in the workings of our organisation.
2018 promises to be an important year in Warwickshire and as a board it’s up to us to ensure that no stone is left unturned.
This year will see another new club coming into Yorkshire in the shape of Sheffield’s St. Vincent’s GAA men’s and ladies.
Cuchulainns are also hoping to start a new hurling team in Newcastle, started by players who used to play for Fullen Gaels. So we’ll then have two hurling clubs in Yorkshire – Cuchulainns and Yorkshire Emeralds of Leeds.
This year we’re also going to make a big push with the underage. The clubs have been falling away because we didn’t have enough teams, so we’re going to make a big push to get more teams involved.
It’s difficult because you’ve got so much competition with soccer and rugby. If their friends are playing soccer, they’ll want to play soccer. If their friends are playing Gaelic football, they’ll want to play Gaelic football.
Yorkshire CDA Jason Rooney is doing a lot of great work in the schools, so it’s about making a big push to get the schools to take more interest in getting the youngsters into clubs.
Today, we could be talking about fourth or fifth generation Irish, or kids who have no Irish connection at all, so the link between the schools and the clubs is so important.
We’re also hopeful of continuing the extension of the Pennine League with Lancashire to three divisions.
We introduced a third division last year and hopefully it will carry on this year. We’re looking at 15 teams so eight or nine from Lancashire and six or seven from Yorkshire.
We’re also looking forward to the visit of reigning champions Kilkenny in the British Championship first round on 12/13 May. Kilkenny will be going for three-in-a-row this year. It’s always a great boost and creates an interest when you have a team come over from Ireland.
We’re really looking forward to seeing the results of the refereeing recruitment undertaken within the county last year, and we’ve even got a number of neutral referees who aren’t affiliated to a club. This is going to be massive for us in terms of fixtures planning.
We looked at the reasons why referees weren’t coming to games, and the county did some fantastic work. Our PRO Jennifer Treacy spearheaded a campaign to recruit referees and we provided them with training.
We’ve now got a referee co-ordinator and that’s going to also take the pressure off.
The sod turning took place recently at the new £3.8m Clydebank development in Glasgow, which will provide long term Gaelic Games facilities for future generations.
It’s a massive project and will provide the first all-weather 4G Gaelic football pitch in Britain.
It’s a two-year project at least, but as a county board we have to make sure we’re ready to use the facility at underage and adult levels.
There is also the possibility for additional funding for more potential projects in Scotland, and one of those could be the development of Pearse Park.
At underage level, we’re going to have our first home-grown players who’ve come through the system to play for their parent clubs, which is hugely exciting.
We have a new county manager and when you look at the standard of player we have, we want to start hitting a higher level. As a county, we’ve underachieved in the All Britain Junior Championship.
Jennifer’s also been doing a fantastic job raising the profile of the GAA in Scotland, and we want to build on that this year.
In 2017 we were able to negotiate some really good sponsorships with O’Neills Sportswaer and Creagh Concrete and that means we’ve got our first real income as a county to work with.
2018 is a year with a lot of potential ahead of us.
There are a lot of advancements that we need to move on with in Hertfordshire in 2018.
High on the agenda is the redevelopment of underage hurling within the county. Hurling was re-established four years ago by St Declans and now following on from that the natural progression is to start getting underage back in the county, to become a natural feeder in time.
Compliance is another issue. We’re a highly compliant county. We take our safeguarding and DBS responsibilities seriously. We want to advance that and get more coaches up to speed in line with official guidelines.
As a small county, a big issue for us is the raising of finance. It’s a priority for us this year because our underage are doing exceptional work, led by our CDA Stephen Lavery. In our view he’s the best within the UK.
We’ve sat down and we have a progression plan that we want to achieve, but in order to do that we need to attract some finance to the county.
It’s very difficult to raise funds, but we’re lucky enough that this year we’ve managed to secure a sponsor, PNT Contractors Ltd, who have agreed to sponsor our championship. So we’re starting 2018 on a positive note.
We face many challenges as a small county, spread across such a vast geographical area, from Oxford to Cambridge. Over 100 miles.
But while there are challenges, they are not insurmountable ones. We have to highlight them and deal with them.
We’ve appointed Kevin Devlin as our county manager. He is well known throughout Hertfordshire and has vast experience.
This year we’re making a very enthusiastic commitment to our county team, to re-establish ourselves within the provincial championship, and we feel Kevin is that man to get the best out of our team and re-engage with all of the clubs.
Now we’ve appointed our new manager and all of our committees are in place, as well as our underage manager appointed, everything is in place for 2018 and we’re progressing rapidly.
It’s a big year for hurling in the county as we’re taking part in the National League for the first time in Division 3B.
Our main goal was to give a good account of ourselves, and the team has certainly done by reaching the league final.
Entering the league will then give us half a chance in the Lory Meagher Cup. We were entering it cold in previous years, while the likes of Fermanagh, Sligo and Warwickshire would have four or five games over us. So it’ll give us a good footing.
We chose not to explore the option of playing our home league games at Old Bedians because of the weather. And the all-weather 3G or 4G pitches here just aren’t big enough.
We need our own facilities which are able to take the weather, and at the moment we’re in talks with a developer and Trafford Council about a development in Carrington, right beside where Manchester United train.
We’re in negotiations with the developer over whether the land will be bought or leased, and working with the council who are pretty keen for us to play our games there.
We’d be looking to get two pitches up and running, and this would be a dedicated GAA facility.
With regard to underage, our goal is to increase our number of clubs. We’ve had three clubs (St Lawrences, St Mary’s and John Mitchel’s) for a good while now, so we’re hoping to get another one up and running this year, St Brendan’s in Manchester.
They started up last year, but this year they’re looking to compete in competitions. Our CDA Andrew Kane will help them to recruit through his work in the schools.
McGovern Park is a venue that any county would be proud of, but we now must ensure that are other main pitches (Greenford, Goodmayes, Mitcham, East Lane, Mill Hill and the Scrubs), are appropriate facilities with the proper changing and showing facilities.
McGovern Park will be available for more games in 2018 which will ease the congestion elsewhere.
However, we must be mindful of the new pitch and it must be monitored to ensure it maintained as designed.
McGovern Park is practically completed; we await the making good defects certificate and the issue to planning discharge, some work needs to be done for planning discharge that we await conformation of.
We are now considering designs and costings for the refurbishment of the function rooms in the clubhouse at McGovern Park. We hope that once the funding is considered we can complete this work in 2018.
Last year we lost Heston Gaels due to a lack of officers to run the club. The age profile of many club officers is something we have all become aware of in recent years, and while drive and experience are great for a club, time waits for no man or woman, and this is something that London GAA must address in the coming year.
We must encourage the youth talent to stay within the association, as they can offer more than just players. They can become administrators.
We should also consider a Youth Day workshop where all interested in Youth Football and Hurling can attend and see how participation can be increased.
Finance will always remain a key challenge to any county committee. London is very fortunate that we have a great nucleus of sponsors and for this we remain very grateful and we thank them.
The sponsorship and support of the business community in London is a great indicator that we are doing the right things for our association in London.
The aim this year is to build on the success of 2017. In particular, the success we enjoyed with our youth development where we had increased numbers.
County Blitzes at U10, U12 and U14 have been a great success, and we now have girls playing, but the real highlight of last year was St Joseph’s in Swansea winning the primary school competition at the All-Britain Competition.
The likes of Paraic Maddock and Des Stafford built the club up four years ago to what it is now, and they were invited to play at half-time in last year’s All Ireland quarter-finals between Monaghan and Kerry and Tyrone and Armagh.
To see St Joseph’s and Swansea’s colours at Croke Park on such as major day was a great step forward.
St Colmcilles in Cardiff and St Pat’s in Gloucester both have increased numbers, and we hope to start youth sections in two more of our adult clubs – in Bristol at St Nick’s or Western Gaels, and St Judes in Bournemouth.
Our CDA Liam Britton-Jeal is assisting them in getting up and running, and if we can get an ABC appearance that will take our participation in the tournament up for a third year in a row.
We had three clubs competing at the ABC in 2017, and this year we hope to increase that number to five. We’re also looking to take a girls team to this year’s Feile.
This year, the league will be played on a home and away basis, which will double the number games at adult level. That’s a huge step forward.
Last year saw championship quarter-finals for the first time in my memory in the county, and it was probably the hardest fought championship I’ve ever seen in Gloucestershire.
We want to build on that this year and the building blocks are in the place.
We’ve had a great few years in Gloucestershire and we want to build on that in 2018.