Grass roots should be helped now

The GAA’s ability to attract big attendances and maintain significant commercial income is proving a real bonus for provinces and counties.

The GAA’s ability to attract big attendances and maintain significant commercial income is proving a real bonus for provinces and counties.

Hosting games is lucrative for any county fortunate enough to have a venue capable of handling major competitions. Last year proved a particularly good one for Kilkenny with Nowlan Park hosting the National Hurling League final and a hurling Qualifier, both involving Kilkenny and Tipperary.

These games went a long way towards Kilkenny receiving almost €97,000 in rental income. Outside of Croke Park and Semple Stadium, this was the highest rental income received by any ground.

’Park a top venue

While the income was warmly welcomed by the County Board, what those two major games really proved was the suitability of Nowlan Park as a major venue and Kilkenny’s ability to run full-house events without incident.

The GAA multi-sponsor model had its detractors at the outset but I suspect no one is complaining now. Close to €9m was distributed to Provincial Councils and County Boards. Kilkenny’s share came to a healthy €192,000.

Given Kilkenny’s early championship exit, team expenses were down to €50,000 while the county received €64,000 towards games development. It should be noted that Kilkenny would have also received significant funding from Comhairle Laighean towards a range of projects.

At a time when the construction industry is struggling, GAA capital grants helped a range of projects to the tune of €9.3m (aside from any Provincial Council funding). Kilkenny’s share of this funding was €434,000. This will be well spent at Nowlan Park and the new development at Dunmore.

With the debt on the Croke Park stadium no longer an issue, and 2014 already looking extremely positive in terms of income, it is time for the GAA to look at how the ’Association can assist the organisation at grass roots level. We may only be in the middle of February, but club treasurers have already written sizeable cheques to cover a range of items, particularly insurance.

The notion of a cheque in the post from Croke Park will not happen, nor should it. However, it would be a gesture of real support for the grass roots organisation if some of the gains from last year and this year were used to support the ’Association’s insurance schemes, thus lessening the burden on clubs.

Just as the GAA announces a financially successful 2013, this year’s hurling action begins in earnest this weekend with the commencement of the National Hurling League. Kilkenny’s trip to play Clare in Ennis is the big game. While it is unlikely to define the season for either county, neither side will want to lose.

Team building mode

Kilkenny had a successful Walsh Cup campaign and a few new players will get an opportunity on Sunday. The Cats are currently in team-building mode and supporters can expect this to continue during the League.

Now is a good time for players to break into the team. Despite losing heavily to Tipperary last weekend in the Waterford Crystal final, Clare used the competition well. They will be in much better shape on Sunday.

Well done to the Rower-Inistioge on their All-Ireland club intermediate success. It is a great achievement for the famous club and should set up the team nicely for the senior campaign ahead.

And we should not forget the historic achievement of Carlow’s Mount Leinster Rangers in reaching the All-Ireland club senior final. I was not surprised that ’Rangers defeated Loughgiel Shamrocks.

The Carlow men are improving with every game. They will enter the final against Portumna as underdogs, but no one should write them off. The players will be gunning for glory in Croke Park on March 17.