By Damian Dolan
London GAA’s members are being invited to have their say on the future of the organisation within the county, as work begins on a three-year strategic plan to ensure the GAA’s growth.
The plan will provide London GAA with a “vision” designed to guide it through the next few years.
Club delegates were given an outline of the planning process at last Monday night’s first county board meeting of 2020, and have been asked to report back with suggestions from their members.
London will relay those ideas back to Connacht GAA at the end of February/early March, for feedback.
If the process goes smoothly, London hope to launch their strategic plan at Easter. But that time frame could be “subject to change”.
New London GAA finance and operations manager Stephen Lohan, whose role it will be to oversee the strategic plan’s implementation, along with the officers of the board, says its essential in order to “make sure London GAA is thriving and going in the right direction”.
“It’s a plan driven by London GAA for London GAA,” Lohan told the Irish World.
“By putting plans in place and striving for those goals you’re creating awareness and more people will hopefully get involved.”
Lohan has been working with Adrian Hassett and John Prenty of Connacht GAA and it’s expected that all counties within the province will have a plan in place by the end of the year.
The plan will be made up of five streams; games participation, volunteering and administrator development, governance and administration, communication, and the protection and growth of the organisation.
Each stream will have its own objectives, which must be SMART; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
A ‘leader’ will be appointed to each stream and it will be their responsibility to get other individuals on board and ensure objectives are met.
“Once objectives have been set we’ll have to create actions to make sure we reach those objectives and progress indicators along the way to ensure we’re on track,” said Lohan, who hurls for London and St Gabriel’s.
When it comes to the objectives of each stream, Lohan emphasises the importance of quality over quantity.
“Making progress is the key; Adrian says it doesn’t matter if it’s a one-page document or a 20-page document, once the goals are clear, and achievable, you’re making progress,” he said.
Lohan says his success in his new role will be intrinsically linked to the effective implementation of the plan.
“If we achieve the goals set out, then I’m doing my job,” he said.
“You can create a plan and look at it and admire it, or you can create a plan and go an implement it.”
Lohan’s other priority is to supervise the introduction of Croke Park’s new finance system, Dynamics. It’s a standardised accounting software being rolled out by the GAA designed to give greater “control”.
That’s all in addition to his day-to-day remit to assist all officers of the London county board.
Lohan describes it as a “busy role” but one that’s also a “perfect fit”. It gives him the opportunity to combine the skills he learnt at Sligo IT with his accounting experience.
Lohan studied Business in Recreation and Leisure at Sligo IT, before going on to do a Masters at UCC in Accounting.
“My education matched the requirements for the role and I love the GAA,” said Lohan, who worked in accounts for an online gambling company in Cork, before being transferred to its London office.
From Ballygar, in Galway, he hurled Under 14 and Minor for Galway, reaching an All-Ireland final in the former, and losing a quarter-final to Cork at Croke Park at Minor.
Lohan didn’t make it on to the pitch that day at Croker, though, and he came bitterly close again in 2018 with London’s hurlers, as they lost to Kildare in the Christy Ring final. Again, Lohan was an unused sub.
It’s a source of motivation to get back there this year with Kevin McMullan’s Exiles.
“Been so close on two occasions would drive you on to get back there – you want to play there,” he said.
Lohan won a senior county final with St Gabriel’s in his first year in London, and was part of the side which reached the final again last year, only to lose out to Robert Emmetts after two periods of extra-time.
Following in Mark Gottsche’s footsteps of playing county while holding down a full-time role in London GAA, Lohan has already drawn a line between the two.
“As a player, if anyone talks to me about county board I ignore them. And when I’m in here (his office at McGovern Park, Ruislip) about how poorly I played, I ignore them,” he says.
After a “disappointing” 2019, Lohan’s other priorities are on the pitch, starting with helping London win promotion back to Division 2A.
“The goal is to get back up; we want to be competing with the big boys in 2A,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to this year and there’s also the mouth-watering opportunity of playing against Offaly, if we do get out of our [Christy Ring] group.”
It promises to be a busy year on and off the pitch for Lohan.