Birr GAA fall short in bid for senior hurling semi finals and final to be staged in St Brendanís Park

Thursday, 14 December 2017

THE Offaly GAA annual convention was held in O'Connor Park last Tuesday week with Birr GAA seeking to add two additional bye laws that would see the Offaly senior hurling semi finals and final return to St Brendan's Park in some capacity going forward.
The first additional bye law that was dealt with was the one labelled "That County senior hurling finals be fixed for St Brendan's Park, Birr, in alternate years, unless deemed unplayable".
Speaking on behalf of the Birr club was Chairman John Irwin and to his credit, he put forward a strong case as to why the finals should alternate between Birr and Tullamore. Mr Irwin said that the Birr club were not looking for all finals to be played in Birr as that would not benefit the county as a whole but remarked that it would benefit the county if the finals were spread around to get a countywide approach.
Mr Irwin continued by strongly saying that this was not a Birr GAA versus the County Board nor was it an agenda from Birr GAA but instead an attempt to share top quality hurling with all parts of the county. He remarked that there was a good relationship between the Birr club and the County Board and they would like to continue to foster that.
He stressed that it had been a long time since semi finals and finals were played in St Brendan's Park and that clubs and children from that part of the county were been deprived of seeing their heroes and top quality hurlers in action.
Mr Irwin acknowledged the work being done countywide to promote hurling and complimented O'Connor Park for being a fine stadium. He agreed that O'Connor Park have better facilities at the moment but that shouldn't take from the massive amount of improvement works that the Birr club have made to their grounds from their own funds and without financial help from the County Board while pointing out that promotion and exposure of hurling right across the county was the main aim of their proposals.
Mr Irwin also pointed out that it was recommended by the Hurling Review document that county senior hurling finals return to Birr and that he had been encouraged by the County Board taking on board other elements of that document.
Offaly GAA Chairman Tommy Byrne was quick to point out the excellent work that the Birr club have put into their grounds but pointed out that O'Connor Park is the County ground and finals should be played there while also bringing up points such as the financial element to taking the games out of O'Connor Park and how it could affect the sponsorship in the future such as pitch side advertising in O'Connor Park. With a lot of revenue coming from Leinster Council and Croke Park for the hosting of games in O'Connor Park, Mr Byrne also explained that taking a senior hurling final out of O'Connor Park would not be a good look when looking for these games.
John Irwin explained to the meeting that Birr GAA would be more than happy to not take their 15 percent cut from the gate that all clubs are entitled to when they host games while also stating that any signage paid for in O'Connor Park could be moved across to Birr for the final every second year without any problem. Mr Irwin also confirmed that an email was sent to the Birr club on September 5, 2017 from the Offaly Secretary stating that no games were promised to Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park as part of the sponsorship of the ground. He went on to further explain that this was about trying to make the whole county strong in hurling and not have certain and traditional areas exclusive to progress.
Delegates such as Des O'Brien from Crinkle, Brian Gavin from Clara, Aidan Mulrooney from Seir Kieran, Joe Keane from Carrig and Riverstown and Michael Cleary from Shinrone all rowed in behind the Birr proposal with the general feeling from all of them that given the amount of work done on St Brendan's Park, they deserve the recognition and the chance to once again hold a senior hurling final for the first time since 2007.
With that a secret ballot took place and after it looked promising initially, the proposed additional bye law was defeated by 54 votes to 44 votes.
The second additional bye law from the Birr club read "That County senior hurling semi finals be fixed for St Brendan's Park, Birr, unless deemed unplayable".
Again, Birr GAA Chairman took to the floor outlining their reasons for the proposed additional bye law. Their argument was the same as the previous proposal while Mr Irwin insisted that they weren't looking for "all" semi finals but that at the moment, they were getting none. He stressed again that St Brendan's Park needs to be getting big games in a bid to continue to develop and promote hurling countywide.
Clara delegate Brian Gavin thought it was a "win win" and that Birr needs something while it could be a great way to bring everyone along on the one page going forward. Belmont delegate Jimmy Cahill also pointed out that the figures for the attendances of semi finals and finals were down last year and that people are voting with their feet.
Raheen delegate John Hackett wasn't happy with the wording of the proposal and while he acknowledged the clarification from John Irwin that it wasn't all semi finals, that was not how it read. Mr Hackett proposed that the proposal be withdrawn but that the County Board give a commitment to give at least one semi final to St Brendan's Park in 2018.
After a discussion from various contributors about the wording, Martin Boland told the meeting that a motion has be to taken the way it is and can't be altered. It was then voted on with the proposed additional bye law defeated by 52 votes to 42 votes.


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