Antrim must fight for better says new chairman Collie Donnelly
NEW Antrim county board chairman Collie Donnelly believes that the new executive has “the skillset” to argue a strong case for the county at national level.
Highlighting the disparity in the number of full-time GAA coaches employed in Antrim compared to Dublin, who have over 50, Donnelly believes that a professional approach from the new county board is crucial.
Antrim have not won an Ulster senior football title since 1951, with the 1989 under-21 success the most recent provincial title won in football. There has been no Ulster minor football title won in 33 years.
And while they have dominated Ulster’s hurling landscape, their relegation to both Division 2A of the National League and the Christy Ring Cup for 2016 emphasises how big a task they face on the fields of play.
“We’re going to be transparent. We’re going to try and bring a professional approach to it. We need to start working from the ground up.
“Belfast’s a big challenge, particularly hurling at underage level. Around the local schools, there’s little or no coaching going on. We have 4 or 5 coaches in Antrim; Dublin has more than 50.
“We’ll be speaking to the powers that be. We’ve been hearing for a year or 18 months ‘if you put the team in…’ so we’re going to test that it’s just not lip service.”
Donnelly headed a group calling itself ‘Saffron Vision’, which issued a letter to clubs in October stating that “the current Antrim GAA does not reflect our true potential and we want to change it for the better”.
The former Antrim senior hurler, who has never served on the county board previous to this role, says he hopes the changes at the top will lead to the Saffron county getting “a fair hearing”.
“I [only became involved] because it was a group of people that were prepared to share the load. I said we’ll give it a couple of years and see if we can make a difference.
“Like anything else, it’s easy to sit in the wings and complain. I think we have some skillset.
“[New Treasurer] Paul McCann, for example, is a qualified chartered accountant. We need those sorts of people talking to Croke Park about proper funding.
“We’re fresh faces and we hope we’ll get a fair hearing, with people at every level. That’s with local people, with local stakeholders in Casement Park, with Ulster Council and Croke Park.”