2019 Wexford GAA County Convention Report

Reports by Rúnaí, Cisteoir and sub-committees

The reports had been circulated in advance to all clubs and were adopted.

The Rúnaí highlighted a very successful year on the field for our intercounty hurling teams and, off the field, for commercial fundraising activities with the recent sponsorship agreement with Zurich a particularly positive development. He thanked the CCC in particular for organising such a full calendar of fixtures but expressed concern at the increase in disciplinary cases. Potential infrastructure developments for 2020 include a couple of new pitches at the Centre of Excellence and possible full reseeding of Wexford Park; if the latter arises, clubs’ forebearance will be appreciated. The growth of the Games Promotion Officer scheme amongst clubs has been a very positive development and more clubs are waiting to sign up to the scheme.

The Treasurer’s report highlighted a positive surplus of €369,000 and it was noted that €200,000 in sports capital funding towards the cost of works on the Centre of Excellence is also due to be paid to the county board shortly.

It was noted that there was a decline in local championship gate receipts and that the bulk of this decline was attributable to a corresponding increase in season ticket sales and the fact that the previous year’s accounts included receipts for a replayed senior football final and several other replays. The decline in national league receipts is due to not progressing as far in the competition as last year or hosting a semi-final as had happened in 2018. Team expenses were higher in 2019 than in 2018, a consequence of reaching All Ireland semi-finals in minor, under 20 and senior hurling.

An increase in staff costs in 2019 was attributable to the retention of a recently retired member of staff for 6 months and also to the fact that the commercial manager took up duties midway through 2018 so 2019 more accurately reflects full year staff costs. Delegates congratulated the commercial manager, Éanna Martin, on a very positive year. €100,000 more was spent on maintenance of Wexford Park in 2019 and this increase comprised of a new PA system, fitout of the new café and additional pitch maintenance. A grant of nearly half this month was received to offset the costs of the PA system.

The Treasurer and the management committee were complimented on their management of finances. In light of current media coverage regarding budgetary difficulties in other counties, a delegate asked whether credit cards are in operation by the county board and, if so, are there suitable controls? The auditor explained that there is a single Wexford GAA credit card and that he is satisfied that all expenditure is properly controlled and any credit card activity relates solely to legitimate Wexford GAA expenditure.

Election of Officers and delegates to Congress / Convention

All those nominated for officer positions were elected unopposed.

Mary Foley and Cathal Byrne were elected unopposed as Leinster Council representatives as Margaret Doyle and Tony Dempsey withdrew.

Two candidates, Dermot Howlin and Liam Curtis, stood for election as Central Council representative and Dermot Howlin was elected.

Six candidates stood for election as Leinster Convention delegates after Tony Dempsey and Denis Nolan withdrew. The following 5 candidates were elected: Derek Kent, Gearóid Devitt, Michael Martin, Cathal Byrne and Margaret Doyle.

In the election of delegates to All Ireland Congress, Joe O’Shaughnessy, David Tobin and Denis Nolan withdrew, leaving five candidates and the 3 candidates elected were Micheal Martin, Dermot Howlin and Bobby Goff

Motions for Congress

Motions 1-4 proposed by the Management Committee were approved. Motion no. 1 provides that provincial runners up in the minor hurling championship will have no further involvement in the All Ireland series and that the Under 20 hurling championship will be organised on a provincial basis with a straight final between Leinster and Munster (and Galway and such Ulster counties as agreed competing in the Leinster championship). This will allow more time for club matches and help ease fixture congestion for clubs. Motions 2-4 are clarifying administrative motions regarding bye-laws.

Motion no. 5, proposed by Sarsfields and providing for a 3-year renewal of the Wexford Town inter-club transfers rules, was approved.

Motion no. 6 (Naomh Éanna) proposed amendments to the rules on dissent and is based on a model piloted in the Celtic League under 17 event in years past whereby two players on each team wear an armband and only they can approach the referee to seek clarification on decisions. The motion was approved.

Motion nos. 7 and 8 (Monageer-Boolavogue) regarding the use of Croke Park at All Ireland football quarter-final stage were rejected.

Motion no. 9 (Monageer-Boolavogue) proposed that a player ordered off for two yellow cards in normal time could play in extra time. It was pointed out that the motion might promote cynical play and did not take account of black card rules and the motion was rejected.

Motion no. 10 (Monageer-Boolavogue) proposed that where a motion makes it to Congress a delegate from the club that proposed the motion could attend Congress to speak to the motion without having voting rights unless they happen to be one of the elected delegates from the county. In the ensuing discussion it was noted that county convention democratically elects people to represent the county at Congress and, additionally, such a motion could significantly swell the numbers attending Congress. The motion was rejected.

Motion no. 11 (St. Anne’s) would allow regrading downwards of up to 3 players after round 2 of the championship. The motion was rejected.

Motion no. 12 (St Anne’s) proposes reverting underage grades back to Under 12, 14, 16 and 18. It was not put to a vote as there is already a motion to this effect tabled for Congress in February 2020. The next county board meeting will determine how Wexford GAA will vote on this issue.

Presentation to Minor Hurling management

The management team of James Shiel (manager) and David Redmond, Liam Roche, Eddie Cullen, David Lennon and John Conran were presented with commemorative jerseys by Wexford GAA President, Mick Kinsella, for their achievements in guiding the team to a Leinster title.

Presentation by the Commercial Steering Group (M. Mahon)

Micheál Mahon began by thanking Adrian Fenlon, Anthony Neville, Seán Doyle and Éanna Martin for their drive and commitment as evidenced by their regular 7.30am Friday morning meetings. He is stepping down as chair of the group due to work commitments and he outlined some of the key events and achievements overseen during 2019.

There has been a strong focus on governance, in putting clear commercial targets and agreements in place which has then allowed Wexford GAA to target “blue chip” companies. From the outset, the commercial committee’s approach has been to focus on revenue-enhancing measures that would not impact on clubs’ own fundraising efforts.

International fundraising and network building opportunities included a gathering in London in February, with a NFL match at its centre, and it is hoped to make this a biannual event. The Fenway Classic in Boston last November was a good commercial and social success and the most recent “Fall Classic” in New York will be reported on in the context of next year’s accounts.

Cairde Loch Garman has grown considerably with membership revenue nearly quadrupling to €15,800 and there is still room for this to grow when it’s compared to supporter club memberships in other counties. The appointment of David O’Connor as Cairde chair was a very positive move and Cairde has organised a very successful golf classic, dog night, horse racing event in Wexford and a sports discussion night in the Spiegel Tent in Wexford Town. Cairde membership will increase to €30 in 2020 which represents excellent value given how membership comes with a guaranteed right to purchase a ticket for all of Wexford’s championship matches.

There has been strong growth in purchase of season tickets, both the national Croke Park ticket and the local championship ticket. Income from signage in Wexford Park has quadrupled since 2017 to €28,100. Corporate Partnerships have grown from €26,700 in 2018 to €90,000 in 2019 and the recent agreement with Zurich as our jersey sponsor for the next 4 years, is hugely significant. As a large employer in Wexford, Zurich and Wexford GAA have important shared values; in addition to on-field developments Zurich has been particularly impressed by the huge amount of voluntary work done by a multitude of volunteers all across the county and by other initiatives such as the Wellness Week and the autism-friendly Cúl Camp. Most recently, the naming rights for Wexford Park have been renegotiated and Chadwicks is now coming on board for a 4-year term. Other specific commercial partners with whom deals were agreed in 2019 were Wexford Bus, our official travel partner, and McCauleys, our Wellness Partner.

It is important to acknowledge the big support over the years from GAIN/Glanbia and Innovate and, as their specific commercial partnership deals come to an end, we look forward to other possible partnering opportunities with them.

Honourary presentations

Presentations were made to Brendan Smith (Clongeen) and Thos Ryan (St. Anne’s) who have both represented their clubs at county board for more than 30 years. A presentation was also made to outgoing Central Council representative, Tony Dempsey, who has been active at county board level (including serving as Chairman) since 1976.

Chairman’s Address

The Cathaoirleach opened by recognising the great Gaels who have passed to their reward during the past year including, in particular, Simon Kennedy, Seán Ormonde, Art Foley and Ned Wheeler.

It has been a very strong year for hurling in the county and the senior hurlers have proven to be great ambassadors for our county. It is fitting that Wexford now has two hurling All Stars and we probably deserved at least one more. It is a credit to the players and to the supporters that Davy Fitzgerald agreed to come back for a further term as senior hurling manager. It is important to remember that our minor players are still children and that should be the key principle in how we deal with them.

Football had a more difficult year despite the hard work of so many but the appointment of Paul Galvin as senior football manager will hopefully provide a real boost to our teams in 2020.

The current club championship structure is probably the best one available to us as a dual county but there is a pressing need to examine how the competivity of our leagues, and the timing and structures of our Under 20 competitions, can be improved. We will also need to continue to focus on improving respect for our referees as they are a vital underpinning of all our games.

Micheal Mahon and the Commercial Committee have brought us to a new funding level over the past couple of years and it is great to have sponsors such as Zurich and Chadwicks on board with us for 2020. It is time now to look at tweaking the Model County Draw in 2020 to return more to the clubs given that the financial situation in the county is stable and healthy. However, there is no room for complacency and, while team costs are firmly under control with Wexford reaching an All Ireland semi-final for around half the cost of comparator counties, there will be ongoing focus on a review of all costs. The 30% increase in administrative costs in 2019 will be a particular focus and it is hoped that by 2020 this can be brought back to down to 2018 levels.

Wexford County Council has been a big help to us in terms of growing our coaching structures and it is very positive that a new framework agreement is in place for 2020 – 2024. The Council was also very helpful in our hosing of the Leinster Scór na nÓg finals in the Opera House in January and, just weeks later, it was great to host Congress as the event provided a big boost to the local economy at a relatively quiet time of year. In this same vein, the selection of Wexford to co-host Féile in 2021 is another major positive event to look forward to.

Off the field, some important awards were won too with both Jim Berry and Alan Corcoran winning well deserved McNamee awards and, more recently, PJ Howlin has been awarded a richly deserved Leinster GAA PRO of the Year title.

The Cathaoirleach concluded by thanking his management committee and the Rúnaí for their hard work, energy and loyalty and said that he looked forward to another big and positive year on and off the field for all aspects of Wexford GAA.