THIS is the time, when the county is doing well, to formulate a strong and meaningful action plan that will guarantee a bright future for Kilkenny, and everyone has a part to play.
That is the challenge out-going County Board secretary, Ned Quinn will put before club delegates when he delivers his annual address to Convention in the O’Loughlin Gaels centre on Thursday night.
“Complacency can have no part in what we are about,” the long serving Mooncoin official insists in a comprehensive, all embracing report that deals with a range of issues under 47 different headings.
“We must continue to seek new and better ways of doings things, particularly in terms of team preparations which is an area that is constantly evolving and changing,” he added.
Mr Quinn, who will leave the post in accordance with the GAA rule of vacating after serving five consecutive years, says having everyone feeling a part of ‘Team Kilkenny is vital to the process.
“Inclusively together with a clearly signposted pathway for all who commit to playing our games at all age levels will reap rich dividends,” he suggests. “Allied to this we must ensure that the most up-to-date coaching and games development programme is pursued countywide.”
Remain focussed, determined
Mr Quinn says everyone must remain focussed and determined in all that they do, and above all they must insist that every team that represents Kilkenny is fired with the pride, ambition, skill and commitment of those who have gone before.
“Insisting on this represents the best way of ensuring that there will be many more wonderful chapters added to the already glorious Kilkenny hurling story,” he insists.
“As we reflect on the extended era of success we are currently enjoying we must not allow ourselves to be deflected from the principals that have underpinned this success,” he says. “These primarily consist of the tremendous unity of purpose that exists amongst all our component parts, including families, clubs, schools, supporters clubs and County Board together with the desire to be the best we can be in all that we do.
“Any lessening of these principals at any level will inevitably lead to a drop in standards with consequent results.”
Mr Quinn reviews a year during which “many historic achievements”, on and off the field, were recorded.
He gives pride of place to the winning of the National Hurling League/Championship double. The MacCarthy Cup success was the county’s sixth in seven successive All-Ireland final appearances and Brian Cody became the first man ever to manage a team to nine All-Ireland successes.
Selectors Michael Dempsey and Martin Fogarty, who have now been involved in six senior All-Ireland victories in addition to two at under-21 level, are also lavished with praise.
The secretary offers his congratulations to team captain, Eoin Larkin, and the entire panel on “their wonderful” achievement, and he extends special congratulations to Henry Shefflin (an ever present in all 62 championship matches since 1999) and Noel Hickey on winning their ninth senior All-Ireland.
Shefflin, he adds, became the first player to receive 10 All-Star awards and he was also chosen as the Hurler of the Year for the third time in his career.
The chairman reminds that the development of the county’s two new training pitches, dressing rooms and other ancillary works in Dunmore commenced. When this project is completed it will provide excellent additional facilities for the preparation of teams, he says.
Mr Quinn reminds that the GAA has endorsed the Government’s 2013 ‘Gathering’ initiative which is aimed at attracting Irish exiles back, and clubs and County Boards are expected to undertake events to ensure its success.
As part of this Kilkenny County Board is organising a ‘Gathering’ National Hunt race day in Gowran Park on Saturday, March 23. Each race will be named after a current or former county player who will attend and present the prizes.
The county is also investigating the possibility of staging a hurling tournament in which teams from abroad would travel to Kilkenny to participate. Clubs should be planning their own event, he says.
“We will put a strong Kilkenny mark on this, and we will help make it a huge success,” the secretary adds.
While the drawn All-Ireland final and replay against Galway thrilled the fans at home and abroad, it led to an increase in the turnover of the ’Board, resulting in a significant increase in the workload of the people directly involved in the management of finance.
“Despite the increased costs associated with our participation in the replayed final and the consequent drop in club gate receipts resulting from the enforced delay in completing the county championships, I am pleased to say that our financial report again shows a surplus,” he says.
“This is an outstanding achievement, particularly when viewed alongside the extraordinary level of success the county teams continue to enjoy. Commercial income remained strong despite the recession. This contributes significantly to our bottom line, while the additional income from winning the National League also makes a significant contribution to the surplus.”
He says that maximising returns from all revenue streams remains vital to the overall financial well being of the county.
The good news on finance came despite considerable work having to be completed at Nowlan Park following the publication of the Slattery report on ground safety. Official approval for all the work has been received.
New wheelchair area
The work included the provision of a new wheelchair area and approach pathway in the rear of the Grace Stand, which has greatly improved viewing facilities for wheelchair patrons.
“The next phase of improvements in Nowlan Park should include the re-roofing of the old stand, the upgrading of the Press Box and the removal of the previous wheelchair area to facilitate additional seating,” he reveals.
The secretary concludes by thanking everyone who helped him and the ’Association during the year, including his wife, Lucy, for the help and support given over all the years of his involvement.