2014 has been a year that Donegal have “a lot to be immensely proud of” according to one of the county’s leading officials.
Aodh Mairtin O’Fearraigh added “the GAA is more popular than ever before in the county”. In his last report to annual Convention (he is standind down have completed five years in the post), there are a number of enlightening passages, including Jim McGuinness laying out the plan to defeat Dublin on the dressing room table immediately after Donegal defeated Armagh in Croke Park and his call for the Ulster championship to be condensed.
The Gaoth Dobhair official said that it was a year “we will reflect on with fond memories, having achieved so much on the playing fields and having a higher profile than ever before in the county”.
In his report he said: “history was made as our Senior and Minor teams won the Ulster Senior and Minor Championships and went on to reach the All-Ireland finals.
“This was an historic day for the county and while we were disappointed with the results, we were all very proud of having two teams in the All-Ireland finals on the same day.”
Aodh Mairtin goes on to salute the county hurlers who won Division 3A of the NHL, and have qualified to play in Division 2B in 2015, “the first time for our county hurling team to play in such a high grade.
“Hurling is becoming much more popular”. 1-3 without reply from reigning champions Cavan ended the dreams of Donegal Under 21 footballers while the Under 17 team won the Jim McGuigan Cup.
The Secretary went on to congratulate St Eunan’s, Cloughaneely and Urris, who represented the county in the Ulster club championships and there was also kudos for Ardara for winning the Ulster Club Maith Award for Governance.
Neil McGee was congratulated for winning the Ulster GAA Writers’ Award for Player of the year.
The Secretary also referenced Paul Durcan, Neil McGee, Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher for their All-Star awards and Ryan McHugh for getting Young Player of the Year.
On the hurling front Paul Sheridan and Justin McGhee were picked on the Nicky Rackard Selection while Neil McGee and Michael Murphy represented Ireland at the International Rules Series in Australia.
The Secretary pointed out; “while there has been an improvement in attendance at county committee meetings, some clubs have a very poor attendance record. Some attend less than 50% and a handful only attend occasionally.
“This leads to a serious breakdown in communications as important matters pertaining to clubs are discussed and debated and decisions are taken in the absence of those clubs.
“There is the added problem that some delegates don’t attend their club meetings or don’t report back to club meetings.
Competition Controls Committee
The Secretary makes a strong case for a sharp reduction on the number of members on the CCC.
It currently has 17 members but O’Fearraigh believes it “can be more effective and productive if there are less members on the committee”.
“Decisions may be reached faster and matters can be acted on more effectively with a revamped committee put in place.
“More powers should be given to the main officers of the new CCC to deal with matters in between meetings so that most disciplinary matters and special requests regarding the scheduling of games can be dealt with in between meetings.
“It’s important that clubs are informed as to how all decisions are reached and that minutes of meetings are circulated to clubs.
There are 20,324 total members of the GAA in the county and that is slightly down from the figure of 21,692 members in 2013.
Minister of State Dinny McGinley was present at the Centre of Excellence in Convoy during the summer to perform the official switching on of our floodlit pitches.
Both floodlit pitches have been used extensively since the erection of the floodlights.
Pitches 3 and 4 are currently under construction and the next phase of development is the construction of a clubhouse on site, as well as a stand to cater for 200 patrons.
Senior Football team
The Secretary gives a very detailed account of Donegal’s entire season from the National Football League to the last Sunday in September.
And he recalls how Tir Chonaill team manager Jim McGuinness “informed his players in the dressing room directly after the Armagh match that he had a plan that he had been working on for a while on how Dublin would be defeated.
“He (McGuinness) laid a folder on the table in the middle of the dressing room and said that he would divulge the contents to the players on Tuesday night at training.
‘There was an air of confidence in that dressing room and a sense of belief that the plan Jim had would do what most of the country said was not possible, that was to beat Dublin”.
Donegal subsequently fell to Kerry when the “dream was over”.
“While it was heart-breaking at the time, it was a great achievement to reach an All-Ireland final, for the third time ever in the county’s history.
Aodh Mairtin noted that it was going to be difficult to replicate the 2013 success when the hurlers took the Nicky Rackard Cup title but Tir Chonaill still managed to get promoted to Division Two B for their first time.
It was Donegal’s greatest ever year at this grade.
“History was made in Clones on July 20 when Donegal Senior and Minor teams took Ulster titles.
“It was the first minor title since 2006.
‘Donegal minor football team made history this year as they became the first team in the history of our county to reach an All-Ireland Final .
“Donegal have won six Ulster titles at minor level but Declan Bonner guided one of the most talented and best-prepared minor teams to emerge from Donegal in some time.
The total paid out to the county in 2014 was E191, 150.88.
15 claims would have reached the maximum of E4.500 medical/dental under the scheme.
The Secretary revealed that claims could now be made on line from next March.
“The one difficulty with this process is that dates of birth are a requirement which is difficult to have with adult players but is more difficult at county level where this information is not to hand.
“Players must be full paid up members of a club and clubs must enforce this requirement.
“This scheme is not intended to be a player’s sole insurance.
“The scheme is intended to mitigate serious financial loss arising from injury-not to cover incidental expenses.
‘We also need to look after this scheme as its future security lies in our own hands.
The Secretary urged the Ulster Council to have its championship played over a shorter period to allow counties like Donegal to play some club championship matches during the summer.
“We must remember that 98% of all footballers are club footballers.
“The tightening up of fixtures for club players is something that really needs to be addressed.
“Currently the Ulster Senior Football Championship takes up to nine weeks to complete, commencing this year on May 18 with a Preliminary Round with the final played on July 20.
“It took three weeks to play the quarter-final games, from May 25 to June 15.
“I can see no reason why the quarter-finals cannot be played over a shorter period of time, and have the championship played over a shorter period, allowing counties to play rounds of club championship in the summer months.”
He added that having “reached the All-Ireland Senior Football final, resulted in our internal championships being crammed into a six week period-hardly ideal for our premier competition.
“This was a decision taken by our clubs even though a suggestion was made by senior team manager Jim McGuinness to play two rounds of championship matches in May/June.
“With no championship matches played throughout the summer months, some clubs had to play three games in the space of a week, games that were to define the club’s year and determine if their player’s sacrifices have been worth it over the year.
“It is proving to be very difficult to find a right balance to cater for club and county football.
“The club is the bedrock of our association and we must strive to provide a better programme of games for our players.
“Club games should not suffer due to county teams being successful.
“The huge majority of club players train and prepare with little idea or when games are likely to be played.
“The introduction of the black card seems to have been a success. Players now know, if they pull someone down deliberately, if they deliberately trip someone or body-check someone, they are going to get a black card.
“No player wants to leave the field of play so the word “deliberate” is very important. There can be an accidental trip and nobody would like to see a players dismissed from the field, even though he is substituted, for an accidental trip.
“It can be difficult at times from referees and officials to keep track on the issuing of cards to players.
“Mistakes have happened and no doubt will continue to happen as officials get more familiar with the new rules.
“We currently have nearly 60 active adult referees in the county.
“Eight new referees were recruited this year, but it’s disappointing that eight clubs had no active adult referee this year.
“I thank all referees for their valuable services during the year.
“There were nearly 50 coaches involved with our development squads.
“I congratulate Convoy, Urris, Carndonagh, Glenswilly, Killybegs, Ardara, Malin, Downings, Four Masters and Lifford on hosting very successful Cul Camps during the summer.
“It has been agreed by an Coiste Bainistiochta that the income generated from royalties arising from the O’Neill contract would be used to reduce our debt and towards additional coaches in the county.
“Hopefully we can provide a more enhanced coaching programme for 2015 with the additional resources available”.
The Secretary recorded thanks to Donegal Creameries, O’Neill’s, Evolve Menswear, J P and Mark McCloskey, Lucozade Sport, RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta, All Sports, Donegal Town, Mount Errigal Hotel, Brian McCormick Sports, McGlynn’s Restaurant, Castlefin, Centra and Marley Coach Hire respectively.
All Ticket Games
“Supporters have easier access to tickets now than ever before.
“Tickets are available at County Board to give to clubs in advance according to membership.
“They are also available on line at gaatickets.ie and can be bought over the counter at Centra and Supervalu.
“Efforts were made to allocate tickets to counties earlier than in previous years, so that counties could then allocate tickets to club members at the earliest opportunity.
“In some cases we did received the expected allocation of so called good quality tickets, but this was because participating counties had large numbers of season ticket holders.
“I would urge those who regularly attend county games to avail of the Season Ticket for 2015 as it is very good value for money.
“It gives entry to the stand for one person at all of your county’s Allianz GAA National League matches and GAA Senior Championship matches.
It is available at E95.
Media and Communications
While thanking the media for its coverage, Aodh Mairtin said it was unfortunate that “disciplinary action had to be initiated against several members and units for comments posted on social media.
“Donegal GAA social media sites Facebook and Twitter now have a combined following of 38,500 people, an increase of nearly 16,000 in the last year.
“Warnings were issued to members and some clubs, as well, because of inappropriate comments posted on social media this year.
“The GAA respects your right to use these media platforms in a personal capacity, but we would ask you to remember the implications of referring to the GAA when you do.
“Adhere to he GAA’s Official Guide and Club Constitution.
“All GAA members are subject to the GAA’s Code of Behaviour when on line even when they are not acting on behalf of the GAA.
“You are responsible for your actions but remember those actions may have consequences for the GAA.
“You have a responsibility when using social media platforms to not do anything on line that might tarnish the GAA’s image and reputation or bring the Association into disrepute.
“I have now served as Secretary for five years and, under the five year rule I must vacate my position.
“I believe that the introduction of the five year rule gas resulted in more people becoming involved at County Board level.
It was a very enjoyable period for me personally as we achieved so much both on and off the field and I wishes to thank everyone in the GAA for all their help and encouragement.
The position of County Secretary is very time consuming, and needs a lot of commitment.
“Change can often be a good thing, with new officers bringing their own expertise, skills and qualities to the position.
“I wish my successor every success in the position, and promise to give my full support to that person.