Club Forum set to become an annual event
By Cian O'Connell
Mick Rock, Chairman of the GAA’s National Club Committee, was encouraged by the response to last weekend’s inaugural Club Forum event at Croke Park.
It is hoped that it will now be staged on an annual basis following positive feedback with the Club Committee, established in 2018, eager to deliver in the coming years.
Ard Stiurthóir Tom Ryan and Uachtarán John Horan attended the seminar which included several workshops. “It was a very good success,” Rock remarked.
“The people who attended seemed to get a lot out of it, they engaged with each other and had an opportunity to discuss the issues they had identified in the club survey as concerns to them.
“They had a chance to talk about them and to discuss them and they were listened to because the Uachtarán and Ard Stiurthóir was there, they had Brian Cody as a guest speaker so they went home very happy. He enthused them.”
Rock is adamant that the National Club Committee can occupy a central role in the future. “This follows on from a club survey,” Rock states.
“We conducted a survey of every club in the country during the summer. We got a fantastic response to that where well over half of the clubs in the country all responded to it on a variety of issues. We put that survey together and we had the results of that for them at the forum.
“We also had a list of recommendations which we will be taking up whether it is at national level or provincial level or wherever is most appropriate under a list of headings to do with finance, fixtures, and volunteering - the various headings of the topics we are dealing with.
“Already on the day the Uachtarán committed that the Club Development grants are going to double from two million to four million. We would consider that as an example of where the clubs are being very much listened to.”
That willingness to engage and listen is critical according to Rock, who was pleased with how Saturday’s meetings unfolded. “It gave them a forum in which they felt they were being listened to which is the start of the process,” Rock admits. “It is something we would hope to build on in the years to come.
“The Uachtarán commented in his speech that he wanted to see it become an annual event. We had in the region of 200, just under 200, in that ballpark. We originally had a date set in mid November, but we had to change that to fit in with plans and availability of the Uachtarán and venue.
“It probably went a bit close to Christmas so we would be hoping that next time around it will be a November event. By running into December it probably clashed a bit with club AGMs and County Conventions. We are hoping to have it earlier, but we were very happy with the turnout.”
“Over the years, the last decade in particular there is a very strong feeling among clubs that they had become less relevant in the overall scheme of the organisation from the point of view that inter-county activity has become far bigger, there is far more of it. Media wise and publicity wise it steals an awful lot of the highlights.
“Clubs, I suppose, have felt a little bit neglected and they have asked us in the survey to help to re-empower them and to give them back their mojo, to make them more relevant in the overall scheme of things.”
How Gaoth Dobhair and Mullinalaghta St Columba’s have flared to prominence in recent weeks illustrates what can be achieved. An appetite exists for the club game.
“There is indeed, anybody that can see the pride and passion that is engendered by the club game and above all the sense of community,” Rock acknowledges.
“If the club is about anything at all it is that total sense of community. You can see that raw passion of a community and what they can achieve. When they get their day in the sun it is an unbelievable experience and everybody in the country can identify with it.”
This is precisely the time when teams began to plan and dream throughout the country and the GAA National Club Committee are intent on providing valuable assistance.