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Secretary Pat Fitzgerald with chairman Joe Cooney at the Clare GAA AGM in the Auburn Lodge, Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly.

Comment: Clare GAA Must Put Structures In Place To Avoid Repeat Of Recent Debacle

After all the turbulence and all the uncertainty and controversy surrounding the appointment of a new Clare senior hurling manager, the white smoke eventually made its way into the Clareabbey sky last week as Brian Lohan was officially ratified by club delegates.

It brought an end to a needlessly protracted saga that saw player statements, managerial withdrawals and a general air of chaos that simmered close to boiling point on more than one occasion.

There is no point going back over old ground but the process that unfolded from the time of Clare’s championship exit until Lohan’s name was rubber stamped was simply not good enough. The matter should have been put to bed long before the last day in October and there has been widespread and justified criticism about how the board went about their business in that time. Donal Moloney referenced the uncertainty in the process as being a key factor in his decision to withdraw, while Louis Mulqueen, who had been interviewed for the position, also withdrew his name long before that fact was made known. It is no secret that the majority of the 2019 panel were in favour of Moloney continuing in the role and it is understood that there were last gasp efforts from some senior members of the squad to persuade the Scariff native to allow his name back into the ring.

It is a critical time for GAA county boards at the moment, and we only have to look northwards to our Connacht colleagues to see what can happen when things go askew. Look at the financial implications of sponsors and supporters groups voicing their displeasure at how business was carried out in Galway and Mayo, and you will see just how easily it is to take things to the edge of crisis. That is why lessons must be learned from the shambles that has been the last few months in Clare GAA and steps must be taken to ensure that this scenario is never seen again. Delegates spoke at length last week in their condemnation of social media abuse directed at the board, and while personalised, anonymous attacks cannot be condoned, the reality is that the board must look at themselves and ask if they are holding themselves to the same high standards that they expect everyone else to attain.

Just take the eye-watering 4.8 million euro figure that has been spent on the Centre of Excellence in Caherlohan. A ‘Centre of Excellence’ that lies idle in the winter months while county squads are forced to train and run up further costs under the lights in UL and other venues. A ‘Centre of Excellence’ where voluntary labour by our intercounty players has been an integral part of the works carried out there. A ‘Centre of Excellence’ where a parent bringing their child to a training session can’t sit down and have a cup of tea while they wait. Surely that cannot be allowed to continue? Those same players who picked up the painting brushes highlighted the need for further investment in the facility to bring it up to standard, but how has that not been already done with close to 5 million spent? A request was made for a breakdown on the expenditure figure at Caherlohan so it will be interesting to watch how that unfolds at December’s annual Convention. Openness and transparency are the buzzwords at the moment, so there is no reason why that breakdown should be not laid out.

We have also seen major controversy in Mayo GAA this week with media being excluded from county board meetings. That doesn’t say much for openness and transparency, so let’s hope that example is not followed elsewhere.

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