Outgoing chairman Sean Dunnion making his final address at the Donegal GAA Convention. Photo Geraldine Diver
The GAA in Donegal has been given a welcome pre-Christmas boost, with the imminent announcement of a “substantial grant” to help advance the Training Centre in Convoy.
The announcement was made in an emotional, eloquent and memorable final speech from county chairman Sean Dunnion, who was given a heartfelt standing ovation when he finished his 18- minute speech at the GAA Co. Convention in Jacksons Hotel, Ballybofey on Friday night.
The chairman said he was delighted to make the announcement that he only heard about at 6 pm on Friday evening.
It came after a meeting that he, Cieran Kelly county treasurer and county development Officer David McLoone had with Croke Park official in presenting plans to source more investment in the Convoy project.
He added that their proposals had been “forensically” examined but were now being put to the Croke Park Management Committee for expected approval
Dunnion said he hoped that the building would rise up out of the ground in 2018 and be available for use then at some time in 2019.
“Some of you will be aware that the County Development Officer a few weeks ago presented the National Infrastructure Committee with an update on the building project which was very well received.
"This was followed up on Thursday evening when myself, the county treasurer and the county development officer made a very detailed presentation which was forensically examined.
“As of this evening (Friday) I am delighted to report that the Director of Finance in Croke Park has assured us that there is a recommendation going to the Management Committee next weekend of a substantial grant coming towards the building of the Training Centre and we are absolutely delighted”.
Elsewhere, Dunnion said that county chairmen and GAA volunteers generally faced challenges that could be very stressful nowadays.
“It is different nowadays where we live in this digital age where everybody and anybody has an instant opinion on what they see on digital platforms and social media.
“As somebody said to me recently, at leat when a major issue arose back ten years ago, you usually had three or four days to get it resolved before the next newspaper hit the shelves and it became public knowledge.
“Now almost everything seems to make it into the public domain and ends up being debated relentlessly for a number of days.
He added: “Unfortunately this increased the strain on volunteers who are trying to manage difficult situations under extreme scrutiny”.
And he asked the question, did I leave Donegal GAA in a better place than when I came in to the role in December 2012.?
“Yes I believe I did.
“Financially 2017 has been a very successful year, despite the many challenges outlined by the county treasurer.
“Any year that you break even on an expenditure budget of approximately £5m is a good year.
“And I am thankful that we have been able to accomplish that over the past five years”.
He also praised the growing association between the GAA in Donegal and Letterkenny IT. He said it was a relationship that should be “nurtured”.
On a more sombre note he slammed the abuse directed towards ex Donegal team manager Rory Gallagher following the county’s heavy defeat to Galway in the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
“It would be remiss of me not to mention the days immediately following our exit from the All-Ireland series with that defeat against Galway.
“The level of abuse directed towards our players but mostly towards our former team manager Rory Gallagher and indeed his family primarily on digital and social media channels was absolutely disgusting and should not be tolerated in what is supposed to be a modern mature society.
“It was truly shocking”.
But the most memorable part of this seminal speech was a sentence that really defined the respectful Four Masters clubman.
For if the definition of a gentleman is one who tries to inflict the least possible pain on others, Sean Dunnion ticked all boxes.
He added that he was always struck by the respect that clubs had for him when he attended their events.
“I believe that respect should be a core value in every walk of life and I hope and trust that I afforded the level of respect to everybody that I dealt with during my term that they would have expected from me.
"I have a simple enough philosophy that if somebody calls me or texts me it must be of sufficient importance to them to warrant a call or a text back at the earliest possible opportunity”.