At the recent East Mayo GAA Board AGM John was asked to give an account of his involvement in the GAA. Here is John's excellent account of his dedicated long service to our club (1988 - Present). Anybody that knows John knows his quiet nature, his ability to get things done in a comprehensive yet understated manner - he is not easily fazed and has been a wonderful guide to all committee members who have come on board throughout the years - always available to advise or chat when needed. He has steered the club through some very tough times and has overseen some of the biggest developments undertaken at Ballagh GAA. We are incredibly lucky to have someone of John's ability so willing to give his time and skill. Continued success at the helm John.
I regard it as a great honour to have served as Treasurer of Ballaghaderreen GAA Club for the past 33 years. I worked in Meath from 1970 to 1987 and as a Mayo native originally, I only saw Mayo win 2 Connacht titles in that period namely 1981 and 1985. While in Meath I played some junior football with a club outside Kells. The porter in the bank signed me up when I arrived in town. This was my standard and weekend matches did not always suit my social diary. We had enjoyable times and social outings as well. In the seventies club championships and leagues were not as well organized as now but there were a lot of tournaments and festival games which attracted great local interest. A lot of these games in Meath were mid-week and very often were heated on the field and more so off the pitch.
After getting married I got a work transfer to Ballaghaderreen in the summer of 1987. A few weeks after arriving I met the club chairman Jim Fleming in the town and he spoke about joining the club. He mentioned the official I replaced was the outgoing treasurer and had now moved to Galway and maybe I would take on the role. Another official in the bank who played with the club was doing the role on a caretaker basis. I went to the September club meeting and was co-opted as treasurer at my first meeting in the club. What struck me greatly was the great welcome afforded to me at this first meeting. I have carried out this role since that meeting over 33 years ago.
Ballaghaderreen GAA Club is typical of many clubs in Ireland and particularly rural Ireland. The club has membership of 500 ongoing over the past 10 years. Over 30 years ago an income of 10k annually would cover the running costs of the club while today this figure is approx. 50k before loan repayments or any capital expenditure. Over the past 10 years the club has spent approx. 1m on club development works. This work has consisted of modernizing clubhouse, 2 new pitches, fencing and extended car park to hold 100 cars. This work was funded as follows: own resources 400k, grants (Government and GAA) 400k, loan 200k. The loan is now reduced to approx. 50k. Recently club received planning permission for new astro pitch 60m x40m with lights. Development committee expect works to start in coming weeks and a draw for new car will take place in the New Year. This fund-raising venture is slowed due to Covid restrictions.
The club's main income sources over the years are memberships and weekly lotto—now 50/50. The weekly lotto started over 25 years ago and was most successful for many years. For some time GAA were the only lotto in the area but competition from other clubs/groups has seen a drop in sales. Furthermore, pubs were the main generator of sales originally but reduction in number of pubs in club area and less people going to pubs has led to drop in sales. Originally when club started weekly lotto there were 18 pubs open in the town area and 4 in country areas. Today there are 9 pubs in town area and 2 country pubs in club catchment area namely the Brusna Inn and the Forge Inn Clonntia. Teams of 3 look after the lotto monthly. We have a team for each month of the year so that means 36 members play their part. Draws are held on Sunday nights and on bank holiday weekends on the Monday night. The club changed to 50/50 draw two years ago. Since Covid club has started holding the weekly draw earlier on Sunday evenings at shops and stores that are open during the pandemic. Going forward it is likely that the club will hold the draws at a mixture of pubs and shops.
Membership remains static on a yearly basis. However, the one change is more people are paying their membership on line. Approx. 50 percent of membership was received this year by on line payments.
The club takes up an annual church gate collection and holds a table quiz annually on Good Friday night. The club collects a gate at all home senior league games. Each June in recent years the club holds fundraiser outdoors at Brusna Inn on bonfire week.
The club has run a number of major fundraisers over the years. About 12 years ago the club arranged a Thousand Aire fundraiser. This was a great success and made a profit of approx. 75k. 9 years ago the club held a Scrap Metal collection fundraiser and this idea raised 80k profit. This was a great community event and people living in both the town and country areas gave great support. In more recent years the club ran a successful Strictly Come Dancing fundraiser with neighboring club Western Gaels and a boxing tournament titled Battle of the Border with Charlestown Sarsfield. Both were great events financially and socially. The club players have organised a number of Last Man Standing fundraisers which often has helped to pay physio bills. Over the years the club and its members have assisted local and national charities with their Church Gate collections. At the end of September 2019, the club in conjunction with a committee in London arranged a charity cycle from London to Ballaghaderreen in memory of former player and club official the late Frank Kelly. 50 cyclists took part in total with 10 club members cycling from London and 10 further members joined the cycle in Dublin. The event raised over 300k for Motor Neuron Disease research and the Alzheimer's Society and received the Community Award at the Western People 2019 Mayo Sport Stars award night.
The club get great support from local businesses with sponsorship. Kelly TV were the senior team sponsor in the 1980s whereas Durkins Bar /Restaurant were the senior team sponsor for the past 30 years. All club teams have sponsors and many local businesses have sponsored signs at our car park.
The club has had club members as managers and outside managers over the years. All club members never took a penny in expenses. Most outside managers charged a modest fee to cover their expenses but in my view the club paid an excess fee to one outside manager which I did not agree with. Club players have shown great support to the club over the years. No expenses are paid for travelling and players are happy with this arrangement once they know fully the club's financial position. Some years ago, when the club lotto was going very well the club gave a nominal fee of 100 euro to students at the end of the year towards their expenses.
In my 33 years I have served with 2 club secretaries namely the late Gerry Clarke and since 2007 with Andrew Durkin. In the same period most chairpersons have served their full 5-year terms. This may seem a closed shop at the top table but is definitely not the case. Our current chairperson Dermot Dillon is completing his 5-year term this year and took up the role in his twenties. Ladies have also played a prominent role over the years. Eleanor Doohan served as Insurance Officer for a number of years. There are currently three ladies on the club executive. Our P R O for a number of years now is Tina Surlis, registrar for past 2 years is Angelina Nugent and Stephanie Craughwell was appointed Children’s Officer in 2020. Over the years there has being an active ladies social committee. Local clergy have always played a prominent part in the club. Past chairpersons in recent times were Fr John Doherty and Fr Tommy Towey while the current vice chairperson is Fr Paul Kivlehan. Some years ago Fr Padraig Costello served on the club executive when he was based in Ballaghaderreen.
Over the past 10/12 years the Ballaghaderreen area has lost over 500 jobs with the building crash, closure of meat factory and cigar factory plus 200 Bord of Works jobs locally. This is an issue for our adult teams. In 2019 when the senior team reached the county final I was amazed when manager Paul Mc Hugh told me where players were travelling from in particular for mid-week training. Only two of the panel of 32 were working in the parish while a further four were coming home to the parish every night. That meant a further 26 were travelling from all over Ireland like Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Sligo, Tipperary, and Carrick on Shannon. That brought home to me their commitment for their home club. About half of the 26 were students while the other half had permanent jobs in these cities, towns. I am sure the position is the same for most clubs in the west of Ireland. With the option of remote working becoming more acceptable hopefully clubs will gain to benefit going forward.
In the role of treasurer there are a number of rules I insist on: (a) No pre-signed cheques held in chequebook, (b) All monies lodged, all accounts and bills paid by cheque even for 10 euro, (c)Details of balances of bank accounts at all club meetings plus details of all cheques issued and monies lodged, (d) Copies of all invoices taken and given to all executive members individually each month, (e) Cash flow forecast shown if needed particularly if I feel club need to consider additional fundraising to meet projected expenditure in months ahead. By giving members all the information, I feel it helps in getting ordinary members to organize and support fundraising events within the club.
For the past six years I have represented the club at the monthly county board meetings as club delegate. I have served on the county Hearings Committee for the past four years. I joined the Croke Park Stewards panel two years ago.
Caiseal Gaels Hurling Club and Kilmovee Ladies Football Club use our club facilities regularly. They attract many members and players from our club area. In past year Ballaghaderreen has formed a Gaelic Mothers and Others team who bring new club activity at our club grounds. The club has a particularly good working relationship with all these teams.
In my role over the years, I wish to particularly thank all fellow club officers, team managers and players for their support of the club. This has made my role easy. If it was a difficult task, I am sure I would have walked away years ago. I would like also to express thanks to Kevin Cahill who acted as assistant treasurer for many years and now acts on a joint treasurer basis with me. His help is invaluable. Thanks to 50/50 committee for their work every Sunday evening and to coordinator Michael Hopkins in particular. In the 30 years plus, I have celebrated many enjoyable club and county successes with club members. Hopefully, this trend will continue in the years ahead.
I wish to thank Mary Prenty Secretary East Mayo Board for asking me to put pen to paper. I wish the board and all clubs in East Mayo an enjoyable and exciting 2021. Hopefully GAA activity will be back to normal. I also wish to express my congratulations to Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence for their great facilities in our division and in particular the new Dome facility which will be a tremendous asset in the years ahead.
Best wishes for Xmas and 2021.