London County Chairman John Lacey speaks about the board’s plans for 2017
Before Christmas London GAA held their annual convention where John Lacey was voted in to return as chairman for a second year running.
In a definitive time for London, which will see a new county ground take centre stage, Mr Lacey knows that there is more than the Ruislip development to work on for a successful 2017.
“I would like to wish all of our clubs a prosperous new year and I thank all the officers of London GAA who I have worked with throughout the year,” he told the Irish World. “I would also like to acknowledge their work for the county and that our only differences can be put down to my urgency to make our county better in all the ways it can be and leave it stronger for those who come behind.
“I wish the incoming county committee well and know that London GAA will be in safe hands if the betterment of London GAA is always their priority.”
The development at Ruislip currently sees the stand fully erected, and with the pitch laid it is well on the way to completion and is expected to be ready as planned on time for its target date and for the Connacht Championship opener when London play host to Leitrim in May of this year.
“Work is progressing as planned and I wish to repeat encouragement for the Gaels of London to contribute with purchasing of seats to fulfil our funding requirements. The facilities we will have are crucially important to the ongoing development of London GAA and look forward to the positive impact it will have for all.”
With reports of fixture schedules for club players dominating media reports in light of the launch of the CPA, Mr Lacey has also addressed the issues that unfulfilled fixtures pose to championship and cup competitions. Since coming in to the London set up last year Mr Lacey has endorsed that fixtures should stand as much as possible in order for teams and players to be able to plan their schedule, and also to protect the integrity of the county competitions.
“Games are what we are about and fixtures are the start of that. All members need to have confidence in a masters fixtures plan so they can plan their time for other activities and especially family time. When one or two clubs to seek postponement of a game due to the strength of teams it can completely throw the whole plan in the air, and lead to multiple fixture reorganisation, only to end up in a worse position at the postponed date.
“As club members and administrators we know what we would like to do for any given fixture but we must be mindful of the outcome for all. The last thing anyone wants to see is walkovers given which is totally contrary to what we are about. At the start of the year each club should examine the master plan in recognition of dual players, club events and holidays, and sign off on it.
“We cannot start with clubs thinking ‘Ah well, don’t mind the master fixtures as things will change’. That is defeating the most critical element of our administration before we start and always leads to a collapsing deck of cards scenario.
“Confidence in our fixtures helps players, club administrators, club supporters and patrons generally. Attendances are dwindling in recent years and this is partly due to lack of confidence in whether games are on or off. And we also have a duty to fulfil all fixtures as planned for those companies who been so good in sponsoring each competition.”
One of the other pressing issues that Mr Lacey touched on when reelected at Ruislip was the sale of New Eltham, previously stating that the monies from the previous county ground would go towards securing more pitches across the county for clubs to use.
Mr Lacey has already started looking at alternative pitches and has asked members to also be on the look-out as the ones so far have not been fit for purpose. They need to be of appropriate size and also with a long-term lease, or preferably for sale.
“The sale of New Eltham is now complete with funds with central council. This was a long and arduous journey and there are many lessons to be learned with the result. A greater debate lies with the result now.”
He also looks to the development of the youth scene, which he says has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but still needs to be improved upon with greater help and participation from volunteers. “We must all work together with a unity of purpose for London GAA. While it is good to point out individual players and say her is ‘London born’ we must also recognise that we have been here a long time.
“We have been affiliated to central council since 1896 and must be aware that London-born players are far more exceptional than they should be. In 120 years we should have a greater participation from those not born in Ireland and we must take responsibility for that both by promotion of our organisation and welcoming those who may wrongly feel it is not a place for them.
“Whilst great work is taking place in underage with a plan going forward is it where it should be in 2016? There is still room for improvement but rightly feels that we are heading down the right track and the future is looking promising.
“I watched some lovely underage football games last season which greatly encouraged me although I am disappointed that underage hurling has not taken a turn for the positive, particularly for my club Granuaile who do great work at underage level.
“As stated in the Clar for Convention a concentrated, and continued, effort from the county must be made to see a significant improvement in 2017 and into the future, as we have an obligation to do so.”
After convention a number of county board positions were left open to be filled in the New Year namely PRO and Assistant Secretary.
Mr Lacey has suggested that the social media age means that methods of communication has changed, and has perhaps affected participation in London.
“There are many more players available to play in London each year than participate. This may be down to a lack of interest, motivation from clubs or work commitments, and the same can be said for club and county administrators. The big question is how can we get those involved in London GAA?
“Years ago young emigrants came to New Eltham and Ruislip to get help in securing accommodation and work. But today with today’s methods of communication and social media visiting Ruislip or Greenford or contacting clubs is not necessary anymore. This is an issue we must openly address.”
In terms of the county, Mr Lacey congratulates the clubs’ and inter-county teams’ achievements over the last year.
“London have a national honours list that many counties in Ireland would be proud of which is accentuated by the fact that we are a dual county. We look forward to testing our players against any county and are rightly proud to do so. But we must do what we can to get the London GAA people to come and support our county teams and that is all teams from juvenile to senior.”