Kellys eye on the future - GAA Presidents Speech

Eye to the Future—–


Eye to the Future—– Integration is the key
Congress Speech Compiled by Fr. Liam Kelleher

Sean Kelly, President of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael
has been a people friendly, media friendly, inspiring
far seeing President with the common touch. He
is a huge supporter of Ladies Football and rarely
misses an opportunity to be present at major functions.
Congress was no exception and his inspiring address
on Sunday morning shows that he is well in tune.
After beginning by wishing all mothers a happy
mothers day he went on to say. “ I am going to
see my own mother later in the day, I have one
mother, one aunt, one wife and two daughters and
as far as I am concerned and the GAA it is outstanding
to see the amazing development of the Ladies Football
Association in such a short period.

Since foundation in 1884, the GAA has grown and
now it is a strong vibrant organisation with the
highest attendance’s in its history, the highest
TV. audiences and the way sponsors have come into
the Association shows it’s the Association most
desired by the business’, all that has happened
since 1884. When you consider Ladies football
started in 1974, you have achieved so much in
such a short space of time. You can be justly
proud of your achievements, like the GAA , a very
vibrant organisation reflecting all that’s good
in Ladies Football. But reflecting the whole attitude
to Ladies Sport and helping women get the recognition
they deserve. Often sponsors will sense what is
really about an organisation, and you look at
the sponsors you have, there’s TG4, O’Neills,
Suzuki, Lucozade Sport, The Irish Sports Council
all very reputable companies who would not be
involved in an organisation unless it had a great
image and you certainly have.

I remember a time in the late ‘70’s when Ladies
Football was up for discussion at a Congress and
it was said football was a mens game, that was
the attitude of some people then, you now have
a successful organisation with great competitions
at Club level, County level, National level, wonderful
occasions, your All Star Banquets are a great
success, your overseas tours are taking off. All
these help things reflect an organisation that
is going places develops more and more. You can
see that growing more and more into the future.
You have been making huge growth overseas and
that is because of the image of the sport and
the quality of the game. People have been sceptical
in the past but anyone who goes to see the sport
now or watch it on television will come away with
a different view entirely. The fact that you have
been getting more and more coverage on television
has opened up minds all over that you could not
possibly reach if you had not television coverage
and gain that’s a wonderful thing to see. Helen
mentions in her report and again it’s very important
that your Finals day in Croke Park is a major
day because when you are talking to people who
have only a passing interest in the game, you
kind of sum up your association in one sentence.
The one sentence you can use in terms of GAA ‘it’s
an amateur organisation with two teams playing
in front of 80,000 in an All Ireland Final and
they are amazed. The same applies to Ladies Football.
The more you have attending your finals would
be the greatest selling point in terms of support,
sponsorship etc. So I would agree with her thoroughly.
It should be a great day.

One of the difficulties is with counties who
will not be able to put off club matches,
but that can change. One of the things I am
looking at, your organisation can put ours
into the shade, in terms of progression certainly
your attitude to change is more open than
the attitude of the GAA. It is easier to get
change in Ladies Football and you have done
that over the past number of years in terms
of introducing the Clock, Sin Bin etc. We
should be more open to change, as it is more
difficult for us to change, maybe that’s the
size of the organisation, maybe its an attitude
of mind but certainly you have been very quick
and very willing to make changes and to experiment
and that’s good for the organisation. 

You can see at the moment we have introduce
some experimental rules for the National League
and sometimes you’d think you were after changing
the whole association upside down. It’s all
an experiment we decided at Congress, but
the very thought of change for some puts them
off, they don’t want to hear about it. You
seem to have a different attitude and I compliment
you on that. It also, by the way, seems to
much easier to be motions on the Clár at you
Congress, then it is for the Clár at our Congress,
but I wont go into anymore detail on that.

Kelly speaking at Congress

main point I want to mention today is the Integration
Task Force. You saw there in your booklets during
the past couple of years the Task Force have been
working in Croke Park. I would like to compliment
the eight counties who took part in the project,
the work they did was incredible. Some have been
a bit disappointed they have not heard from us
in the last of time. But they are hearing from
us now. The feedback from them was invaluable
in telling us how far to go and was desirable.
It changed our approach in certain things. Tyrone
is one of the counties and I want to thank them,
a fantastic county, most generous in every respect,
I want to thank them for their courtesy and wonderful
progress. So a Bula Bas for the Tyrone County

Essentially our thinking evolved over a period
of time on what we would do with integration and
basically what it comes down to is this, that
there will be integration at club level and autonomy
with close co-operation at National level and
that makes an awful lot of sense. What would actually
happen if we became the one organisation, the
GAA would gobble up everything and there would
be a series of steps right to the top and you
would have to take your place along that queue.
Even the GAA itself way of the working people
feel that it’s a football organisation and they
want to break out on their own. So you can imagine
what it would be like if the GAA was responsible
for Football, Hurling, Camogie, Ladies Football,
Handball and Rounders.

You would have the cream at the top and everything
else would suffer, so the idea of autonomy and
keeping your organisation at a National level
is absolutely vital. It would be crazy to change
it because as I said in thirty years you have
achieved as much and maybe more in some respects
as we have achieved in our 120 years. So there
is no point in changing that. There is great room
for co-operation. We have gone through all the
different aspects where co-operation is required
and what will be needed, and while it is taking
place over a three year period some people would
like it to happen much quicker. I was one of those
who would have liked to have it happen quicker.
I listened to my fellow members and they are right,
because you cant force anything down peoples throats
you have to bring them along gradually and by
getting these motions passed and working over
a three year period it will be better as a result.

At Club level that is really where it is all going
to happen, in fact integration has happened in
Clubs already. Clubs are becoming community, family
dominated organisations. They are taking responsibilities
for everything within their community that means
the family, that means a lot of effort and many
of then at this present time and you know some
of them yourselves, planning for the future, planning
for Ladies Football, Camogie, Hurling and Football
and as a result of that they need extra facilities
which are being planned for and a lot of work
is being done and that is how they are doing it.
Only last week I was in Ballyragget down in Wexford
where they were outlining their plans they were
launching a campaign for their development. That’s
exactly what they were doing, integrating club
and they will need extra facilities for the extra
games. An interesting point and the Ladies have
mentioned it to us, the dressing rooms are now
being designed to suit Ladies with separate entrances
and exits all the these things are important and
are taking place at club level so we are looking
at full integration at Club level. There will
be some people doubting about it, but you have
your own ways to overcome this, the greater good
will be there for all to see. Once integration
takes place at Club level particularly with regard
facilities, who is to be taking the pitch at a
particular time on a particular day all that has
to be worked at. There will be committees working
at that, and that will really strengthen the Club,
make the club a real community organisation, that
it would like to be. It will strengthen everybody
the GAA, Ladies Football, Football, Hurling and
Camogie, then at County Board level, what will
be required will be structures that will ensure
that these facilities are used properly and particularly
two aspects, fixtures and coaching are organised
for the benefit of all. There will be ladies on
the fixtures committee, ladies on the coaching
committee, to ensure those areas are taken care
of in the co, something similar will happen at
Provincial level and National level and there
will be links between our Central Councils management
so that we can oversee this over a period of time.
If there are difficulties it will come back to
the Central Committee and we will make a recommendation.
So I would urge you today to take it on board,
to read it there in detail there is a lot of detail
and try to work on it at grass roots level and
if you do that Gaelic Games will go from strength
to strength, more sponsors will come on board
more people will support it and everybody will
gain in the end and that is really what it is
all about. In conclusion I want to thank you for
giving me the opportunity for being here and I’m
really looking forward to the integration process
really taking off the ground, over the next twelve
months and concluding in three years time.

From now on we will see far more integration,
far more co-operation and far more goodwill with
all our organisations and now that we have a structure
which we can deal with matters, discuss matters,
I think everybody is going to be a winner. So
with that, I thank you again for giving me your
attention and I particularly want to thank your
Uachtarain Geraldine Giles , Ard Stiúrthóir Helen
O’Rourke for their great courtesy and friendship,
Ita and all the others it is always a pleasure
to meet you and thanks for the wonderful image
you representing for Ladies Football, long may
it continue to grow and grow and long may we enjoy
the great game that Ladies Football is.”

The President thanked Sean Kelly for travelling
all the way he travelled after presenting the
Fitzgibbon Cup in Limerick the day before and
to continue the work on integration and wished
him a safe journey to Kerry and a fulfilling year
as Uactaráin of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael.




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