GAA Football

Antrim County Board to table increased funding package plan

Director General of the GAA Pairic Duffy, who attended Saturday's official opening of the new Antrim GAA Centre of Excellence at Dunsilly, Antrim on Saturday is seen here with Ulster GAA President Michael Hasson, Antrim county chairman Collie Donnelly, former chairmen Jim Murray (right) and John McSparron and St Comgall's GAC club chairman Paddy Quinn (left). Pic by John McIlwaine.
Andy Watters

THE Antrim County Board is developing a proposal aimed at securing a “much increased” funding package from the GAA according to chairman Collie Donnelly.

Donnelly, who took over at the Antrim helm on December 7 last year, says officials have engaged with the Ulster Council and Croke Park to source the money it needs to finance sustainable growth within the county.

St John’s clubman Donnelly says Antrim has “a new-found credibility within the Association at provincial and national level” and that progress has been made in several areas throughout 2016

“We have engaged with colleagues in the Ulster Council and Croke Park and we are in the process of developing a plan which will form the basis of an approach for a much increased package of financial support for Antrim,” said Donnelly.

In a statement he admitted that progress was being made “slowly”, but added: “We are moving towards a better place for Antrim GAA.”

Alongside the push for greater finances, the county has begun a root and branch review of its hurling structures and strategy and Donnelly highlighted progress elsewhere including the development plans for Casement Park, the opening of the Dunsilly Centre of Excellence and revitalised Club Aontroma fundraising structures.

“There will be full transparency on the Casement Park project,” he promised.

“Be assured that our clubs will be fully involved, through county committee, in the decision-making process and we will ensure that our county needs are recognised in any new arrangement. Our ultimate recommendation will be based on fairness and equity for Antrim.”

He added: “The Dunsilly Centre of Excellence is now open, and finally Gaelic Games have been hosted at this first class facility.

“That work doesn't stop and we continue with our efforts to secure the necessary financial support to complete the entire development.

“We have successfully integrated the Club Aontroma fundraising structures into the Coiste Banaiste through the establishment of a Fundraising sub committee, Coiste Urraiochta.

“This group has embraced the Club Aontroma mode and membership and has successfully attracted new sponsorship income to the county.”

Meanwhile, almost 90 companies were represented at the first-ever Saffron Business Forum recently and Donnelly said that county committee meetings had been “re-vitalised”.

However, he admits that a lot of work remains to be done.

“Progress with development squads has not been instantly recognisable,” he said.

“We acknowledge this and will continue to prioritise development squads next year and beyond.

“Investment in our young players in both codes does not guarantee success, but we are aware that investment of time and resources into the development squads is absolutely essential in order to deliver the improvements we are seeking.”

An area of huge growth has been Antrim’s ever-increasing footprint on social media platforms. The official @AontroimGAA twitter feed has tripled and the county’s Facebook page has risen to almost 11,000 users in the last eight months.

Donnelly added: “We endeavour at all times to make balanced and sustainable decisions for the greater good and not for the benefit of one club, or one unit of the Association.

“All of our decisions and actions and even discussions have had the betterment of our County at the heart of our 2016 agenda. Progress is coming, slowly, but we are moving towards a better place for Antrim GAA.

“I have seen at first hand many of the challenges facing our clubs at grassroots level, yet in seeing the tremendous input and efforts from volunteers right across the county it gives me great hope for the road ahead.

“Antrim GAA is a large entity, and we are working to build the right structure and procedures that will serve our county in the future.”

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