The Leinster GAA Council has long been recognised as one of the most forward-thinking units within the GAA. In over 30 years of leading the ’Council as CEO, Michael Delaney has never been afraid to promote change and challenge the ’Association on its policies and strategies.
In an annual report to the provincial Convention some years ago the CEO came out strongly in favour of the live televising of games. The notion of increasing live coverage was seen by many at the time as potentially detrimental to attendances with a knock-on impact of reduced income.
Those fears were unfounded as the steady increase in live televised coverage was instrumental in increasing the popularity of Gaelic games to a significant degree.
The Leinster Council was also to the forefront in restructuring Second Levels schools GAA activities some years ago, while its coaching and games development programmes were replicated by other provincial bodies and at national level.
Many people may have been surprised in recent weeks when Michael Delaney challenged the 12 Leinster counties on the role of provincial councils and their future relevance.
When one of the longest serving GAA officials poses such a question it is time to take notice. His pronouncement was based on a genuine belief that the relevance of provincial councils is being slowly eroded.
The background to Delaney’s challenge is understandable. For a number of years many people have been promoting the scrapping of the provincial championships, stating that the time has come to have an Open draw structure.
While I do not agree with scrapping the provincial championships (at senior level), others have a right to offer an Open draw as a possible alternative structure. The most obvious impact of such a change would see significantly-reduced income for the provincial councils.
While all ’Councils would receive additional revenue from Central Council in the event of an Open draw championships, its ability to roll-out and manage projects and initiatives would be seriously impacted. Reduced income would inevitably lead to a reduced level of activities from all four provincial councils.
The question posed by Michael Delaney in his annual report to the provincial Convention received sizeable coverage in the national media. That was hardly surprising, as the Leinster CEO is highly regarded by those who cover Gaelic games.
Silence was deafening
One might have thought, therefore, that Delaney’s comments would have generated plenty of debate at the ’Council’s annual Convention which was held in Dundalk. Not a bit of it! The silence from delegates was deafening with only one person speaking.
Michael Delaney took the lack of commentary from delegates in his usual jovial manner, but deep down he must have been frustrated that his well thought-out report went the way of so many of his other reports and will now lie on a shelf to gather dust. What a shame!
The future of the provincial council structures remains an issue irrespective of the silence from the Leinster Convention delegates. The reality is that the provincial championships have lost some of their drawing power.
Attendances at games have reduced and so too has match income. The real losers are the respective counties within each province who are now receiving less income from their provincial council.
Despite having reduced revenue at their disposal, provincial councils continue to play a hugely important role in the day-to-day life of the GAA. Times, though, are changing and Michael Delaney’s questioning of his ’Council’s raison d’être was spot on.
While the Leinster Council’s stakeholders saw no need to engage in any debate on its future, the CEO is not a person to pose such a challenging question without feeling the need to get people thinking.
Silence was golden on this occasion, but the day may not be too far away when the members of all four provincial council’s may have to sit down and take some serious decisions as to their future.