GAA Football

Dungiven to appoint Ulster's first self-funded club GPO

Dungiven chairman Kieran McKeever (left) with clubmate Joe Brolly.

ST. Canice's Dungiven are set to become the first club in Ulster to hire their own self-funded, full-time Games Promotion Officer.

The Derry club, who won the Ulster Club title in 1997 but haven't won a Derry SFC title in the 21 years since, is seeking applicants who would be “responsible for leading the underage games development and coaching work within the club and schools”.

It's understood to be the first position of its kind to be created in Ulster and takes its lead from the Dublin model, where each club has its own designated GPO who is half-funded by the club and half by Dublin county board, which in turn receives a major games development grant from the GAA.

Some clubs have designated GPOs but they were either partly or fully paid for by a combination of county boards, Ulster Council and government funding.

Dungiven chairman Kieran McKeever, an All-Ireland winner with Derry in 1993, explained that the idea is that the club will benefit in the long-run from streamlined coaching structures.

“We've been talking about it for two or three years now. We were bringing a coach into our schools and paying for it, but we weren't getting the joined-up approach that we really need, and we needed more input into our own club.

“Our youth committee and executive felt we were falling further and further behind. Our coaches do a tremendous job and this, for us, would complement and support them.

“But we felt we were falling further behind and we needed to take the leap of faith and employ someone.

“We've talked about the fact that it's time to realign our priorities. Most clubs put most of their expenditure into senior teams and we felt if we put it into our youth, the senior team would hopefully look after itself in five or ten years' time.

“If we can get the proper basics of Gaelic football taught to our children coming through, and we have a style of play that suits Dungiven that we're playing up until minor level, our coaches can come up through that as well and we'll not need an outside manager.

“For all that development from U6 to U18 will move straight into senior with the same aligned style of play.”

The club had made enquiries about receiving at least partial funding from both Derry county board and Ulster Council, but were told that no funding is available.

“We were looking about funding and maybe looking the easy way out where we'd get 50 per cent funding, or even 100 per cent funding, but we can't get any.

“Funding is a big issue and I've already had phone calls asking if we're getting funding, and we're not. Everybody would love it to be like it is in Dublin, where clubs employ a GPO and they get 50 per cent funding.

“A lot of clubs could maybe afford that, and it is the way to go. But maybe Derry or Ulster aren't in a position to do that.

“We want to turn it into a full-time, permanent job going forward, that the club will always have a GPO.”

The GPO system has been heralded as being at the centre of Dublin's GAA revolution and former Allstar defender McKeever believes that the joined-up approach to coaching between the club and local schools is the key.

“You can see the massive improvement in Dublin, right through their underage levels because of the structures they've set up. We feel it can only be a benefit to us as well.

“We're not saying that there's something wrong with our coaching, but a more joined-up approach that aligns the schools and the club together is needed.

“That means the children will be doing the same coaching at the club as in the school, which will benefit their skills in a positive way.

“It will benefit us greatly, even if we don't see the benefits for a couple of years. It'll be coaching in all the feeder schools into our secondary school, and primarily for U6 to U12 in setting up structures to help the club take a step forward.”

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