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Clare County Board must explain themselves


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CAN the Clare County Board explain why they are unable or unwilling to reveal why the 10 clubs who received a €25,000 Croke Park grant were successful?
Equally pertinent – why are they afraid to tell the 14 clubs who didn’t benefit from the grant the reasons behind the demise of their applications?
If the county board were brave enough to stand by their convictions and clearly explain the logic behind their decision-making, they would be accorded far more respect than is the case.
Everybody involved in sport is capable of taking a setback on board. It happens every week when teams are picked and players are left in the dugout. But as long as those players, who feel that they should be playing, are talked to and told why they are not featuring, most accept what they hear.
The same logic would apply with reference to the grants controversy in Clare if the county board could manage to explain the reasons behind their decision-making. Unsuccessful clubs would still be disappointed and angry but they would at least have been afforded some sort of reason. 
The likelihood of the board managing to do this though is very slim. Although the original committee of Johnny Hill, PJ Kelly and Ger Hickey were apparently removed, it has since emerged that Croke Park-appointed Peter McKenna and Derry county board chairman, Seamus McCloy didn’t bother to visit any of the clubs that qualified for the grant and, instead, made their decision purely on the written applications presented to them. That is not acceptable but then again, this is Clare GAA we’re taking about.How could McKenna and McCloy possibly make such judgements without having seen the development work that the clubs had carried out? Or were they influenced by the ousted committee, who had at least visited the 24 clubs that had apparently qualified under the grant criteria?
Another question which must be asked but won’t be answered relates to county board secretary Pat Fitzgerald. At last Tuesday week’s county board meeting, the full-time secretary said that he had not read or seen the submissions sent to the county board by Clare clubs. Is it not bizarre that the board’s senior administrator, who is employed to run the administrative side of Clare GAA, didn’t get involved? 
Why did he opt out? This grants issue has been the most divisive off-field issue in Clare GAA for some time. Clubs that have invested hundreds of thousands of euro in project development surely deserve to have their application read by the county secretary, who, in this instance, has not taken responsibility on an issue where his counsel was badly needed.
While the decision has now been made, clubs are still entitled to a clear explanation as to why they were or were not amongst the chosen 10. The credibility of the county board is already in shreds and even if they do tell us why the clubs who got the money managed it, the damage won’t have been repaired. It would be a start though.
What is interesting about this debacle is the fact that members of the unsuccessful clubs, who thought that they were ‘in’ with the county board, have ended up red faced. They couldn’t deliver. Will these people, some of whom are county board delegates, continue to be dutiful ‘yes men’ at board meetings from here on in? Or now that the level of their influence has been shown to be negligible, will they strip themselves of their ‘yes-man’ tag?
In time, will clubs’ anger dissipate or will they take action, either by asking questions at the next county board meeting or perhaps refusing to co-operate with the 2010 county board draw?
Clubs who didn’t get the grant and weren’t told why, will surely be less than motivated to sell tickets on behalf of the county board, even if their own club would keep half of the proceeds.
Clare GAA people demand an explanation on this farce from the county board. They must oblige.

The Clare Champion spoke to representatives of the 10 clubs that received the grant of €25,000 each and the 14 that missed out

Winners

Tulla
Project: Floodlights fully completed.
Cost: €135,000

“Of course, we’re delighted to get the grant. We went back through the records of all Clare clubs’ games over the last three years and Tulla was the most used neutral venue in the county for hurling games. We felt that stood to us. As for the process, in hindsight, I’m sure everyone involved would have handled it differently but as a club, we felt we were very strong candidates no matter what the criteria was.”
Tulla club chairman Declan Hogan

St Joseph’s, Miltown
Project: 1,200-seater stand.
Cost: €140,000

“We applied for a €25,000 grant and we complied with all the guidelines that were laid down. We were not in favour of the suggestion that 25 clubs should have got €10,000 grants each. The process was long and drawn out but obviously, we were thrilled with the outcome.”
Miltown chairperson, Carragh Vaughan

Cooraclare
Project: Floodlights.
Cost: €153,000

“It was a long process and we didn’t envisage that it would be as long. But we were happy to get the grant at the end of it. On the county grounds’ status issue, we had been granted it before. What we’re looking for is to reaffirm that. A letter that was sent to Croke Park at the time got mislaid but they have no record of it up there.”
Cooraclare secretary, Seán Chambers

Sixmilebridge

Sixmilebridge club chairman PJ Fitzpatrick would not comment when asked by The Clare Champion what his club’s development project involved or how much it cost.

Cratloe  
Project: Sports hall project.
Cost: Approximately €600,000

“My opinion is that the three-man committee had an impossible task from the outset. We were one of the clubs that was in favour of 25 clubs getting €10,000 each. We thought that would be a lot more beneficial to the smaller clubs in the county. But, obviously, we are delighted to be one of the 10 clubs to receive a €25,000 grant.”
Cratloe club chairman, Pat O’Gorman

Feakle
Project: Sand-based pitch.
Cost: €150,000

“We are a very small parish of 300 people and we were delighted to get the grant. Otherwise, it would have been very difficult to fund the work. The pitch had turned into a swamp and was impossible to hurl on.”
Damien Pepper, Feakle club secretary

Kilmihil
Project: Floodlights.
Cost: Approximately €150,000

“It was an extremely difficult task for the committee and it was probably unfair that a committee of Clare-based club men expected to carry out such an assessment. We believe that to be fairer to all involved, it should have been assessed externally. We entered and produced a good presentation. We were one of the clubs that spoke in favour of the money being distributed to the 25 clubs but obviously, we were delighted to get the grant.”
Kilmihil vice–chairman, Pat Quinlivan

Scariff   
Project: An all-weather 70 x 35m AstroTurf pitch with lighting and netting.
Cost: Approximately €275,000

“It was critical to the future of the club, particularly for the younger members. It allows the younger boys and girls to play hurling through the winter months in a state-of-the-art facility. Secondly, we would see the AstroTurf in Scariff as of strategic regional importance as well for all the clubs in this area. We’ve had Paudie Butler here a few times plus other coaches like Peter Casey, coaching coaches from other clubs. So many people in the club have worked towards developing this project, we’re obviously delighted to get the grant.”
Scariff club secretary, Jim Collins

Parteen
Project: An AstroTurf pitch with netting and lighting.
Cost: Approximately €250,000

“We were delighted with the grant. The project has drawn in increased numbers of both younger and adult hurlers since it has got up and running. It is drawing new people into the club. We appreciate all the work that went into getting the grant from the field development committee.”
Parteen club secretary, Ivan Conway

Kilrush
Project: Installation of floodlighting; the construction of four new dressing rooms; a medical room and a referee’s room.
Cost: €430,000.

“Naturally, we are delighted to have got the grant. We may be one of the lucky clubs but we’ve got it on merit. Like every other club that was approved for the €25,000, we see it as testimony to the project we’ve undertaken and of the efforts of club members who have worked hard to get the development up and running and completed. I suppose at the end of the day, everyone has to take care of their own patch and we went the view that whatever the committee came up with we were going to go along with it.”
Anthony O’Connor, chairman

Losers

Ogonnelloe
Project: The provision of a sand-based pitch; two new dressing rooms; upgrading of the car park and entrance and the building of a hurling wall.

“We were disappointed but so was everyone else that didn’t get the grant. We would like to see how the final outcome was determined.”
Pat Gavin, secretary

Bodyke

Project: Refurbishment of the clubhouse which included the installation of central heating and; provision of outside toilets. Widening of the playing pitch.
Cost: €110,000

“We are very disappointed with the lack of transparency through the whole process. There was no definite criteria laid out. Clubs that didn’t get the grant have not been informed as to why they weren’t included.”
Seán O’Halloran, secretary

St Breckan’s
Project: The provision of embankments, terracing; dugouts; dressing rooms; fencing and the upgrading of the complex.

“We are disappointed but at the end of the day, whether we are first or last, we have to accept it. I felt sorry for the committee that was appointed to do the job. It was a poisoned chalice from the outset. We are accepting the decision and will get on with life—whatever way it was going to come. What you lose in the swings you gain on the roundabouts.”
John Hehir, secretary

Tubber
Project: Provision of floodlighting suitable for hurling; the provision of a community walking track and the enclosing of the playing pitch.
Cost: €160,000 spent on the project

“We have no difficulty if we weren’t good enough to jump the fence but we have a huge problem with a lack of transparency. We don’t know how we were judged – where were we in the final list? We don’t know what criteria was applied. Why didn’t the board rule out the people whose clubs were also in contention? There was no point in putting them into this position. We would also feel that given our population base and the costs involved in this project for us that we should have been in the running.”
Enda O’Connor, chairman

Kilmurry-Ibrickane
Project: Development of a new training sand-based pitch, which also caters for national schools and U-12s.
Cost: €140,000

“We are very disappointed that we weren’t included. We didn’t exactly know the criteria required. Some applications went into a massive project plan and maybe that helped. As far as we were concerned, it was to fill the form and qualify. The only thing all were required to do was to show costs. I would be hoping that the board will take every opportunity to help clubs ease the financial burden in relation to making the payments involved as a result of the monies they have spent on their projects.”
Ger Talty chairman

Doonbeg
Project: Pitch drainage and resurfacing.
Cost: €129,000.

“We are disappointed, naturally, like all the other clubs. We felt that on merit, our application would be successful. However, we now find ourselves having to fundraise to get the money to pay for this work. When the new committee was appointed, should they not have seen the project for themselves before making their decision?”
John Keane, chairman

Clooney-Quin
Project: Acquisition and development of a second playing pitch.
Cost: in excess of €400,000

“We are very disappointed that we weren’t included. We felt our project was worthy of inclusion. We are very disappointed with the small number of clubs that didn’t agree with the majority to split the fund amongst the 24 applicants.”
Michael McNamara secretary

Crusheen
Project: Redraining and sanding of the pitch and provision of boundary walls.
Cost: €120,000

“We are disappointed and we felt it would be better for all if 25 clubs got €10,000 each. It should have been sorted out in a shorter space of time.”
Tony McMahon, secretary

St Joseph’s
Project: Floodlighting.
Cost: €170,000

“We are very disappointed. Seamus McCloy’s comments on radio last week were a bit puzzling as he said he looked at the contribution the clubs had made to the association. That puzzled us. When they didn’t visit the clubs, how did they come up with the decision? We felt once the decision was made to go out of the county for decision why refer back? We wish well to the clubs that succeeded and compliment them. At the end of the day, we would be hoping to get an explanation why our submission failed. An explanation is essential.”
Dan O’Connor, secretary

Clarecastle
Project: Development of a junior pitch; viewing and terracing of the main pitch; building and floodlighting of a hurling wall area; purchase of grass-cutting machinery; installation of security fencing, CCTV and electronic scoreboard and construction of car-parking facilities.

“We are very disappointed. A lot of people would like us to do something drastic. We decided to support the proposal of 10 clubs getting €25,000 each and we knew there was a chance we wouldn’t get it. To say we are upset is an understatement. That’s the way the cookie crumbled and we have to put up with it. We would all like to know how we were judged. Good luck to those who got it. We could have done with it. It should have been done and dusted much earlier.”
Greg Fogarty, secretary

Kilmaley
Project: Development of two new pitches and the entrance to same.
Cost: €190,000

“The club is extremely disappointed that we didn’t receive the funding. We believe we have a very strong case. With the size of our development and where we are at, we have a very good case. We are looking at the development of a project that will take Kilmaley hurling and camogie into the next century. We have got huge support in our own parish. We have to ask questions about the process. It looks to have been flawed from the outset and there are questions to be asked. Those who made the decision never visited the site or talked to anyone in the club.”
Conor Clancy, club chairman
Kilmaley club will release a statement on this issue following a meeting later this week.

Corofin
Project: Provision of a sand-based pitch.
Cost: €110,000

“Once it was agreed that 10 would receive grants, there were 14 going to be disappointed. We are disappointed with the spread of the clubs. There is nobody in mid or North Clare. It was a jackpot once 24 filled the criteria. The fairest way would have been to pick 10 out of a hat. We would have been delighted if we got it. No-one knows how the 10 were picked. It is like losing a match by a point, you just have to take it and move on.”
Seamus Clancy, chairman

Naomh Eoin
Project: Pitch drainage and sanding of the pitch.
Cost: €100,000

“The big clubs were going to win when they didn’t put the names into a hat, which was the fairest way. They committee didn’t have the criteria to go to the second stage. They had criteria for one hurdle only. That’s where the whole thing fell down. Hindsight is a great thing. In a hat, each one had an equal chance. Once it went to Croke Park, all the big ones were going to win.”
Michael Boland, secretary

Lissycasey
Project: Construction of dressing room complex which includes a gym at the club’s second pitch.
Cost: €291,739

“We are disappointed. We supported giving something to each of the 24 not because we felt we mightn’t qualify but because we felt all clubs had work done and were entitled to some of the money. We are baffled at some of the comments made by Seamus McCloy on radio and we would like an explanation. It would only be fair for the clubs to have an explanation as to how the decisions were arrived at.”
Johnnie Nealon, chairman

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