Donegal’s GAA clubs have agreed to gather the additional €81,000 sought by County Committee to help run the financial affairs this year.
Club Tir Chonaill, the county’s fund-raising arm for the development of the county’s new Centre of Excellence, have been set a target of €180,000 for the completion of the Convoy project.
Independent of that, a budgeted figure of €131,000 was requested to help run the county’s teams and help pay for the maintenance work required to take Sean MacCumhaill Park up to required standards.
This work is imperative to give Donegal the best possible chance of hosting the Ulster championship opener against Tyrone on May 26.
Three contractors are currently working on site, with the Ulster Council due to inspect the Ballybofey ground after their deadline of March 31 to see if the necessary improvements are sufficient to see the capacity increase to above the required 17,000.
The Slatterty Report, which is a GAA-commissioned audit by independent health and safety inspectors, reduced the capacity of MacCumhaill Park to 12,250 last year.
Among the improvements required are the installation of four new turnstiles, a turnstile computerised counting system and the realignment of the crush barriers on all three terraces.
Other improvements include the creation of a secure walk from the main entrance to the river end of the ground, and the erection of safety fencing behind the main stand and along the river end.
The clubs of the county at a previous County Committee meeting in early February, voted to push on with the Sean MacCumhaill Park refurbishment, which is also set to receive funding from Croke Park of between €30,000 and €40,000. Improvements will cost €129,000.
Therefore, a way to finance that work was needed. With the reformed Donegal Supporters’ Club entrusted with gathering €50,000 of the €131,000 needed in total, the remainder of €81,000 will be collected by the clubs.
The proposal was thought out at a finance meeting of the County Committee last week and circulated to the clubs to consider ahead of last Monday’s meeting.
There was understandably plenty of discussion on the matter. Indeed, following a handful of votes on amendments that were both defeated and carried, the proposal was passed at Monday night’s county committee meeting in Ballybofey.
“We took the decision last month to go ahead with the work in Ballybofey and now we must support that,” county chairman Sean Dunnion said at the outset of the debate. “This is not a time for backtracking.”
Fifty-one delegates voted in favour of the proposal, which will see each club contribute E10 per family member, to see it passed.
Amendments mean that every club must pay 50 per cent of this contribution by May 3, or lose half their allocated tickets for the Donegal v Tyrone match.
Then, the remainder of their contribution must be paid by August 1, or the club run the risk of having the All-Ireland final ticket allocation - whether Donegal are involved or not - trimmed in half.
In the case of the clubs, the contribution is in addition to the annual club levy paid on an annual basis.
As things stand a senior club forks out E€6,500 per annum, an intermediate club €5,500 and a junior club €4,500.
A proposal from Terence McGinley from Naomh Ultan that was passed on Monday means this extra subscription will only be for this year.
Clubs who contributed to the controversial All-Ireland final E5 ticket levy/surcharge will be discounted the amount they contributed towards that controversial charge, which will mean a €55,000 refund to the clubs.
“What’s being asked here is practically illegal,” said Naomh Bríd delegate Matt Gallagher. “Clubs are feeling the pinch. Tickets are being used as a big baton or a threat, but it is only if we’re successful that tickets become a lever.”
On the other hand, Sean McBride from Moville, urged the clubs to get behind the proposal for the greater good.
“It’s not unreasonable,” he said. “What we need to do now is put our shoulder to the wheel. We took the decision last month to go ahead with the work in Ballybofey and now we must support that. It’s a worthy cause.”
Beforehand, Bernie McGlynn of Glenfin proposed to drop the jackets, which equate to E36,000 per annum, as part of the club Donegal package, with Fanad Gaels’ Fiona Shields seconding. She said: “We could waiver these jackets for one year.”
The vote on whether to continue with the jackets as part of the Club Donegal was taken and ended gridlocked at 39-39. Dunnion asked for another show of hands even though it was pointed out by Dungloe delegate, Aideen Gillen, that as county chairman, he was entitled to make a casting vote. After the county secretary totted up the numbers following a second vote, the proposal lost 36-34. Treasurer Grace Boyle said there was a menu of options in place to try and assist clubs with their fundraisers, including the distribution of sponsorship cards for a 5k run/walk, which has been pencilled in for on Saturday, April 6, at 11am in Ballybofey.
“This is a huge opportunity for clubs to get together and create something with one another,” she said.