End game in sight but defiant Tommy Byrne far from ready to surrender yet

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kevin@tullamoretribune.ie

Offaly GAA chairman Tommy Byrne talked to Kevin Corrigan

HIS involvement in the Offaly GAA County Board dates back to 2001, his club career much longer but Tommy Byrne is facing his greatest personal challenge as he gears up for a contest with former Offaly hurler and footballer, Michael Duignan for chairman at Convention on December 10.

The Gracefield man first became Offaly GAA Bord na nOg fixtures secretary in 2001, a year later he was elected as the adult fixtures secretary and received widespread praise at the time for the work he did. When Durrow's Brendan Ward ended his long tenure as chairman in December 2002, he decided to throw his hat into the ring along with Pat Teehan, the then vice chairman, Jimmy Daly (Cappincur), Ollie Daly (Ferbane) and Jim Buckley (Tullamore).

As the campaign wore on, it became clear that Tommy Byrne was a dark horse, coming up fast on the rails but his triumph was still a stunning upset. It was a meteoric rise up the ranks, it was also the wrong thing for him and the County Board at that time. Reflecting on it now, he candidly admitted that it was wrong and he didn't have the experience for the job at that time.

“I made that decision (to contest) driving down town one day thinking when will this opportunity come up again and I became chairman but I came into a group of people that had been there for years and I didn't have the political viewpoints to deal with it."

Prior to that, he had given years of service to Gracefield GAA Club. He was just seventeen when he came secretary of their juvenile club for the first time in 1974 and combined club work with playing for a few decades – he stayed playing until he was 48 years of age. While he played football in his younger days, his big passion was hurling and he fell in love with the game after taking it up at 24 years of age. “I'd lose myself out on the field, I wouldn't see the sideline. I was just immersed in it.”

He had a productive hurling career, winning two Junior “A” and two Junior “B” Hurling Championships and a league title. He was captain when they won their first junior “A” crown in 1984 and his football career was sparse – he played senior football for Gracefield but never in the championship.

Now retired, he worked in the Prison Service and a spell in Mountjoy in Dublin ended his administration but not his playing involvement with Gracefield for some years. He served a stint as chairman in the 1980s and then did eight years as secretary from the mid 1990s into the 2000s – by this time he was working in Portlaoise. Gracefield was the training base for Offaly senior footballers at that time and he had a close relationship with then managers, Tommy Lyons and Padraig Nolan. He was crucial to important developments, the provision of a second playing pitch and training area, floodlights and work on their club rooms.

Moving up to county level was a natural progression for him but he walked into early haymakers. In his first year as chairman, Edenderry's Paul O'Kelly was controversially dismissed as senior football manager and in 2004 Galway's Gerry Fahy resigned after narrowly surviving a County Board vote to retain his position, leading to a much publicised strike by the players. The fall out took years to heal and worn out, he stepped down at the end of 2004.

However, it was far from the end of his GAA career. After taking three years out, he returned as assistant secretary, running the fixtures with great efficiency for five years. He then became secretary and when Padraig Boland ended his spell as chairman at the end of 2016, he challenged for chair again, beating Tullamore's Fergal McKeown and Tubber's Joe Higgins in a vote.

He is now in his third year as chairman and can serve two more years before he must step down under the GAA's five year career rule. While he will always be willing to help Offaly GAA if he can, he can now see the end game in sight for his long career. He has other things he wants to get involved in, feels he has done his time but he is absolutely determined to see off Michael Duignan's challenge – the double All-Ireland senior hurling medal winner threw his hat into the ring after a meeting with a group of interested people: Edenderry's Colm Cummins and Clara's Dervill Dolan and Brian Gavin are also challenging as a result of that meeting.

The controveries

First and foremost, Tommy Byrne has been a somewhat controversial chairman, never shying away from confrontation. He has been centrally involved in the abrupt ending of a number of managerial reigns. There was O'Kelly and Fahy in his first stint and then in his second spell as chairman, Kerry's Stephen Wallace and Tullamore's Kevin Martin were replaced during mid season. Waterford's Kevin Ryan was a one year hurling manager and there have been other controversies that captured national attention – in particular, Coolderry's Liam Hogan resigned as chairman of a hurling development committee a couple of years ago in protest at their plans not being implemented.

The controversies were addressed early in our lengthy chat.

Looking back on it now, would you have handled things differently with Paul O'Kelly, who was sacked on the recommendation of a ten man review committee?

“I definitely would have handled things differently, committees and groups made the decisions and I took the slack for it but now if I am going to take the slack I will be very central to the decision. I won't say it will be my decision because it won't. In spite of other controversies like that it wouldn't be all my decision but the reality is if you are the chairman you are the one who has to deal with all these things good and bad. There's not a club in this county that hasn't had a problem at some stage that myself or somebody else will end up being involved in because you're there and you know what to do and people will ring you and it's a good way of having contact with people."

How tough was the Gerry Fahy situation and the players' strike?

“What made it even tougher was that I knew all them lads well and thankfully I got on great with those lads and there's not one of them that I wouldn't be on really good terms with because I genuinely believe having a grudge against someone only affects you."

He has met Gerry Fahy a couple of times since and they have spoken but have never had an in-depth conversation. The players' strike stung though.

“ It was the hardest part because nobody knew what to do with it and there was no help from outside where as you see in strikes in other counties afterwards the bigger name that could be got was sent to try sort it but we had no help at the time, but in fairness the likes of the Leinster Councils is a completely different thing nowadays, nobody knew what to do with things like that because they hadn't been heard of it really.

Peace eventually resumed after the late Eugene McGee came in as mediator and drafted an agreement between players and board – an agreement that remained enforce until the GPA came on the scene and new strict guidelines for player welfare were implemented across the GAA.

He admitted that it all wore him out at that time and he decided to step down. “ I was still working and communication weren't like what they are now, there was no mobile phones so you had to meet up with people for everything and even the fixtures back then you had to come and do everything on paper. Three of us used to spend an hour and a half on a Sunday evening getting out the fixtures because there was eighty envelopes and you were trying to make sure they were all on the one page its so different now, you just press another button and send it another minute later.”

Stephen Wallace

In his second stint as chairman, Stephen Wallace was removed after a Leinster championship defeat by Wicklow in 2018 – suspended as a result of an incident at a club game in Kerry, this was used as the reason, though there remains a belief that other factors and player discontent may have come into the equation.

“I just want to make one thing very clear on the Stephen Wallace situation, there is bits of misconstrued stuff up on websites yesterday. I was aware there was a pending case against him and I spoke to him on numerous occasions, the first time I was told for definite that he had got his suspension was under the stand before we left to go to Portlaoise with no time to act. We acted decisively and we wouldn't even have to have a meeting to deal with that now, it's in every managers agreement now that should they be suspended they are gone and that's from the day we appoint them and it's the only way it can be, you can't expect players to be disciplined if the manager is not.”

Would he have been sacked if he hadn't got suspended. “ It's a difficult one to say to be honest but the suspension hit like a ton of bricks. It had been discussed because we knew it was going on but you can't condemn a man until the process had taken place and that's when I was informed of the outcome, I came to O'Connor Park because they were meeting here before they went to Portlaoise and I told him he couldn't be active with the team on the day straight away"

Kevin Martin

This year, Kevin Martin was removed as hurling manager as relegation to the Christy Ring Cup loomed. The appointment of another hurling folk hero, Joachim Kelly as manager didn't save Offaly's bacon and Tommy Byrne found this situation much more difficult than the Stephen Wallace one.

"It was very different for me because I had been on very good terms with Kevin for as long as I can remember but we got to a situation where we had lost two out of two, relegation was staring us and we felt we had to make a change. Sometimes you get a bounce when you make a change, we got a certain amount of bounce but it wasn't enough, just the end result didn't happen, we are where we are now. I don't jerk any responsibility for that but I also have to take credit for what we've done in the meantime because we have done everything humanly possible to rectify this situation and we did it fast. Our aim is it's no good getting back to the Leinster championship in two years time, we have to get back and be at a competitive stage. It's obvious that there is a lot of good young lads coming along in Offaly like between Eunan Martin and Gary Cahill, that's under twenty and minor, we have narrowed the gap a lot. A lot of those lads that were twenty last year were minor the year before. We came back to five points against Kilkenny from what was thirty and forty, I think that can be done on a consistent basis. Hopefully as well we have two really good minor management set-ups in place because we spend as much time at football as hurling and I think we have a very good group there and we just a couple of points away in under twenty and minor from winning games. Hopefully we have done enough now that if the players are good enough that we can change it from losing by the one or two to winning by the one or two.”

To some observers, it looked like history repeating itself and more managers being dispensed by the people who appointed them, including yourself?

"I have to be ruthless in any line of this job I do and I'll do what has to be done."

What about the accountability of the people who made the initial recommendations getting away unscathed and then returning to do the same for the next manager?

“ I think for years we had a template where we form committees and we went and interviewed people and it didn't always work. This year and last year we took a different attitude, we looked at who we thought was going to serve us best in the job and went for him."

What about the cost factor of bringing managers from Kerry and Mayo?

“If they are the right person for the job, it doesn't matter where they are from. Do they cost more? Sometimes but maybe not,” he smiled, insisting that the board apply GAA and Revenue Commissioners guidelines when it comes to paying management expenses.

Faithful TV

The new Faithful TV service has gone down very well, providing streamed coverage of the latter stages of the club championships but there was confrontation last year year when the services provided by outsiders were dispensed with. That service was fronted by Drumcullen man and radio commentator, Joe Troy and he reacted angrily when they were told they weren't being used.

“They came to us to look to do a pilot scheme. We said yes and and we would talk to you next year. They didn't come back to us but we did see what they did and we thought they could do better. We didn't do this as a reaction, we were looking at this. The first thing we saw was they looking for money off clubs to do it and there was no agreement for that. I picked up the phone and stopped it there and then.”

He was astounded that at the quality of the new service, with some matches being streamed live and he pointed out that people in 14 countries bought access to the senior hurling final.

Hurling development committee

Liam Hogan's resignation as chairman of the Hurling Development Committee and controversy over the implementation of their plans resulted in a lot of adverse publicity and dominated months of life for the County Board. It was a headache that he could have done without but he feels things have progressed since then.

“Liam Hogan has since come out on a podcast and said he is happy with the way the hurling development plan is being implemented now. Martin Cashen came in at a very difficult time and has a good solid structure for coaching and games in place. There is a lot of good progress and initiatives are being implemented on a regular basis.”

He stressed that former Offaly hurler Brian Carroll did not resign from the committee as some people thought and instead saw out his year before stepping away because of work commitments. “You could do without those things but when they are there, you deal with them. There was controversy over it but we are implementing both hurling and football plans and way past what is in the documents.”

He praised the former Offaly hurlers and footballers involved in this whole area and also announced that football legend Matt Connor has come on board to oversee the football coaching and games development programme – helping deal with issues and providing critical feedback on the way the whole set-up operates.

“There is a terrible amount of work going on. Maybe it is our own fault, we don't put it out there,” he said, speaking of the need to get more people involved in public relations.

The good stuff

Despite the Wallace, Martin and hurling development committee controversies, Tommy Byrne came in for his second stint as chairman much more equipped for the challenge. His time as assistant secretary and secretary served him well and a lot of good positive developments have taken place in the last three years. It was clear that he had also modified and evolved as chairman, still leading with a strong hand but less abrasive, more open and inclusive. For the most part, the County Board has been more innovative, more willing to try things but at the same time, Offaly are still at a very low ebb in hurling and football.

" Yes I feel confident in myself all the time now in this job and I have no doubts about what I can do. I have done more in the last year than in the rest of my time as chairman and there is going to be more changes and when people say you are around a long time, I've a lot to do yet. We have a lot of different things that are very advanced and are for 2020, different things that will enhance GAA and try and get at the real root problem of up-skilling all our coaches at club and county level. It's not just because we have an election; that doesn't come into it at all, we are working on a strategy that will help really work seriously at that from the day we get them at under thirteen but equally to help clubs because it is a problem for clubs as well. I think we've made huge improvements and it has helped a lot that we have Faithful Fields, it makes a huge difference. Everything is out there and people are happy to be there, players want to play for Offaly now, there's no such thing anymore as fellas we can't get to play and it's really a positive."

The off pitch developments

Major off field developments have taken place during his long involvement. In his first stint, he inherited the O'Connor Park development work and helped bring that over the line while he was secretary when the Faithful Fields project in Offaly commenced – ironically Michael Duignan was a pivotal figure in the fundraising campaigns for both.

Finance

In recent years, the County Board have also got on top of their financial situation. For years, they struggled to manage the O'Connor Park debt with running their day to day activity and all of this happened during a major recession. There were stories of people being owed money for longer than they would have liked and it prompted the County Board to seek assistance from Croke Park.

Several meetings were held in Croke Park during Padraig Boland's term as chairman with Tommy as secretary but they balked when offered a bailout that would have required an external signature on all cheques.

"We went to Croke Park to discuss our things and we were offered help but help as other counties have got comes at a price and the price was that someone else would have to counter sign your cheques. We decided on the way home that we weren't going to do that so we had to come up with other ways of dealing with it. We had to tighten belts but everyone was tightening belts as this was during the recession. Thankfully we are back in a position now that we are able to invest substantially more in county teams and we intend on continuing to do that but that comes with a lot of work too. Every year the bill for running the county goes up and no matter how much money you raise this year, you have to start again. We are already looking at trying to get new streams of revenue for next year because we know that we will need it because you have to keep moving forward, standing still isn't an option.

"As much as anyone else, counties were hit badly by the recession making it harder to get money, there has been statements made that we have refused help from Croke Park and Leinster Council. We refused help from Croke Park, we were offered a bailout and we refused it and we said we'd sort it and it is very sorted now. I couldn't tell you this minute what the figures come out with but we don't ever have days now where we can't pay and everyone knows now that we have gone from being a county that had a very poor reputation for paying and there's nobody out there complaining about not being paid now."

Does it hurt that some people say O'Connor Park and Faithful Fields wouldn't have happened without the input of influential business people?

"No it doesn't hurt to be honest with you because we were working with those people and we asked those people and in fairness to those people they came in and put a huge effort into it. This isn't about any particular person, like everybody in Offaly is proud of what's out there. I'm proud of what's out there but I'm not going to claim that I had a big influence on it being there because a whole lot of people have done different things that has ended up being the end product. It is something that I'm really proud to show people, when you arrive there with a new perspective manager they look around and they are blown away and I think Offaly people are very proud of it.”

He stated that some of the stories circulating about people being owed money and figures being renegotiated were exaggerated. He also stressed that it is history and has no relevance to where they are now.

Instead they have financial structures put in place that would stand examination by any successful business, everything is accounted for and no service is ordered without approval. He is also proud of the fact that Offaly haven't walked into trouble like other counties with money missing or questionable use of credit cards and funds.

"I think the people in the past who have handled the money, handled it well. Sometimes it's difficult when you don't have money. At the moment I suppose we developed our own models, we have increased different streams of income and we are always working towards more of those. We are now looking at a further way at the moment in conjunction with Leinster Council and maybe other counties of a more commercial based fundraising model that other counties have used and that we are looking at coming in. Leinster are looking at a couple of counties coming together, maybe in having somebody that will look at maximising our fundraising streams and that is one of the things that is coming close for 2020.”

There is huge work ongoing in coaching and games development and between Leinster Council and the County Board, there are four Games Development Assistants and four Games Promotion Officers employed in Offaly – GDAs work mainly with coaching clubs, GPOs in schools while Tom Moloney is the board's head of operations. In a new initiative, Edenderry GAA have appointed their own full time GPO, Mairead Daly and the County Board are financially supporting that at the moment. However, as other big clubs attempt to go down the same road, clubs may have to sail their own financial ship for this in conjunction with Leinster Council support.

The cost of preparing inter-county teams has grown dramatically. Players now train with GPA systems, there are match-video analysis of games, much more and all cost money. They have also got a new physio set-up in place for all adult and underage teams – every team has access to a physio at ground level with one at training in Faithful Fields, and there is a quick efficient system in place for getting more serious injuries dealt with quickly, Tommy Byrne outlined.

New initiatives

A number of new County Board initiatives have proven to be successful – small things in the overall picture but all important baby steps forward. The home and away venues for two rounds of the Senior Football Championship went down very well this year; Faithful TV provided much needed footage of games for emigrants and people unable to attend; weekend passes were introduced during the league stages of the championship, providing great value at €15.

It has also placed great pressure on the County Board officers. They had to man gates at the above mentioned Senior Football Championship games and also have to do a huge volume of work in O'Connor Park and Faithful Fields, on top of the responsibilities of their individual job. There are moves to have home and away rounds in other championships and it is not going to be sustainable long term - he is working at trying to get new people involved, committees to take responsibility for different areas.

“People will say why is Tommy Byrne there? Tommy Byrne is there because I won't ask anyone to do something I won't do and we know now what our template going forward is. We are going to need extra help but now we can go and look for people to do it because we are going to be saying there's what we want you to do.”

They are looking at getting a couple of automated turnstiles in O'Connor Park which will alleviate pressure for games there.

Plans are in place for a health, wellness and personal development programme for all underage and adult county players.

“We will have two different people. We don't want to use the word psychology but from that, we have one lead person and one person to work with the underage and development squads on wellness and personal development with the view to making people happier in those areas. The other thing we have now is a nutritionist now overseeing an intern as well who has a degree in it but there will be two people dealing with all teams because we are trying to have people when they get to senior level that they have all this in place. All of these are just things that people wouldn't have dreamed of years ago, they cost money but I think they can be beneficial to the people themselves and ultimately the performance.”

Most people are also happy that Offaly have strong football and hurling managers in place in John Maughan and Michael Fennelly.

“Well there's no more we can do now only let them go do their job and hope that works out. We've put in the best we possibly think we can put there, we've given them everything they need to do the job and I spoke to him (Michael Fennelly) last night and I asked him is there anything not here that you need and the answer was no. No matter what manager or team you put in place, you always hope it's going to do well, this one I really hope it does well because I think it's a big step to go for someone his age group, I think this could work very well, I hope it does. Faithful Fields gym is a very happy place to go into now, you can feel that when you walk into it and that's very important because if your not happy in your surroundings it very hard to give everything."

The big issues

Apart from the performances of county teams, there are big issues that are major bones of contention for clubs and officers in different areas.

Hurling in Birr

In the south of county, the provision of county and club hurling games is a major issue. He feels an agreement two years ago between Birr GAA and the County Board is working well. “ Of course they would like more but what I have agreed with Birr club, they have got everything I agreed and even more than Convention agreed because Convention didn't agree to a semi-final. We work very well with them, they are very happy with what is happening with us collecting the gates. I have a really good relationship with people in Birr club at moment and we are working very well.

“If at some stage in future, someone decides to renegotiate this, that is fine, go ahead but we are totally honouring our side as are they. Birr would like county finals but at the moment, we have what we have and we are working with that.”

Parish underage amalgamations

Earlier this year, Tommy Byrne found himself at loggerheads with big parish underage amalgamations in St Broughan's (Clonbullogue parish), St Vincent's (Daingean parish), Na Fianna (Killeigh parish) and St Manchan's Gaels (Boher parish plus Tubber) when they attempted to rule that the clubs involved could only field their own and not parish teams for underage Go Games. Some of them resisted furiously, feeling that it was part of a campaign to break up the amalgamations.

“It was a hot potato last year. I have spoken to a good few of those clubs. Some people took what we were trying to take it way out of context. We were never trying to split up groups but we were trying to make sure there wasn't a pile of kids on the sideline never playing. We now have better numbers which we will review before Convention. Now we know, who and how many is going here, there and everywhere.

“The problem with it is demographics, population. People have a group now and loads of players. Two years time, the same club might be hardly able to field a team. It is just a movable thing. There is no easy answer. It is not just us. The GAA, the whole way down from the top, they want people participating because you don't get better standing on the sideline. There has to be participation because losing players is a serious issue. The only way to try and prevent that is to have them playing. I have spoken to some of those clubs and I think most of them realise it. One of them came back and said we are really beginning to realise it now, that people knew who their home club is. There is a club which now has a problem with a whole heap of lads 17 and they are going around talking about what club they will play for next year. They don't know that such a club is their club and that is a serious problem. The GAA is all about identity and where you are from and you need to know.

“At a small age, most people are very influenced by their parents. If you don't think Gracefield or Ballinagar is your club, them clubs have a problem. We do feel that the individual club should play Go Games to establish the club identity. We have seen cases where there are individuals who live in one area and want to play adult with a club in another area. That is because they don't know where their real home club is.”

He also insisted that he didn't drive the topic and that it came out of a meeting of club chairmen and secretaries.

Continued from pages ?? and ??

The new challenge

He welcomes the challenge from Michael Duignan and friends but does not beat around the bush when it comes to expressing displeasure at elements of it.

“At the moment, this is about Tommy Byrne and Michael Duignan. It shouldn't be. It should be about the GAA. People might say this or that is better for Offaly but I think we are making huge progress at the moment. There is a lot more progress we are going to make and that is not an empty promise. There is going to be a lot more things that have nothing to do with this election. I will never promise anything until I have delivered. I will do the very same here in this. I could make cheap promises that I know I couldn't keep but I couldn't do that.”

Is the challenge unfair at this stage? “I don't think it is unfair, everyone is entitled to challenge. I think it could have been done differently but that was not my choice. I don't think much about it except that I still have to do the same amount every day. I have to deal with this challenge. I have to talk to people but I still put in the same amount of time into the day to day stuff. This is part of my day, every day, seven days a week. Sometimes even Christmas day there will be GAA.”

He felt that the initial meetings by the group should have been more open, public. “The GAA is a very open, public, democratic type of organisation in general. I think if anything needs to be dealt with, it should be dealt with fairly publicly, not in front of a select audience. I know we come in here and make decisions but we are elected to come in here and make those decisions.”

He pointed out that a lot of their decisions are fully influenced by the views of clubs and that he generally doesn't vote on decisions such as championship structures, leaving it up to the delegate – but finding a way to make whatever structure they vote in to work.

He also repeated that he was asked to step aside when they met with Michael Duignan and the new group some weeks ago. “I don't want it to be a big deal but we had a meeting with three of those people one morning and they outlined a new direction and a change of leadership. I took that to mean that in essence you want me to step down. No one said anything different and I was offered other jobs because they wanted my experience. Definitely anyone that knows me will know I am not going around saying something that didn't happen.

“I have been in a lot of controversies at times but no one has come back and said I was lying because I don't, because it makes life easy. No matter how hard a thing is, it is what it is. It is too complicated to lie and I always thought that I couldn't really care less about what hassle was caused but when I go home, I know what I was saying and it is the truth. I always had a policy that if someone asked me a question that I couldn't answer honestly, I would say I can't answer that now. I won't tell them a lie. On three different occasions, this came up in different guises but I was even offered other people's jobs on the Management Committee and if that is not wanting you out of the job you are in. . . .

“One day at a meeting, I was asked would I commit to stepping down in a year and I refused that because I am never going to be a lame duck. I am either going to be chairman or not and that happened here. We did try to avoid this situation because this could potentially become a divisive issue. I am not sure whether it will or not but it could and that would not be good for anything in the county. Hopefully it doesn't but I was asked would I consider stepping aside after a year. It was obvious that there was a vacancy or two for people.”

He refuted suggestions that the Management Committee is a closed shop, pointing out that seven new people have come in during the last four years, and four of them, including himself will be gone in the next two years.

“I will have my bit done at the end of that. I won't say I won't do something else. If someone comes in and asks me to do something and it is of benefit to Offaly, I'm unlikely to say no. There are different things I want to do and that is coming near the end.”

The new group have set they want to take Offaly GAA in a new direction, with a new vision. What is Tommy Byrne's vision?

“I have already set that in place with the different things we are doing. There is no big dramatic thing you can do to change. I found out myself when I came in the first time, if you think you are going to change the world, you are not. You can pick out a few things. We have done that this year. People might say what has season tickets got to do with it but season tickets is a big thing in its own right but the main thing we have done to change is the calibre of the people we have in charge of all our teams and what we are going to do to try and bring more people up to a good level to work with those teams. I would love if everyone involved in an Offaly team was Offaly. It is not possible always but the more we have the better. If we are not working on them and trying, it won't happen.

“There is a lot of talk about strategic plans and those things are important but it is airy fairy stuff. A strategic plan is grand if you can implement it but we have two strategic plans in football and hurling which we are implementing. That is not my vision, that is a vision of a whole group from Diarmuid Healy to every fellow that ever played hurling. Then there was a substantial thing done in football as well where a group was brought in, a very representative group and a whole lot of things were went through. Their idea ended up being the basis of the plan. We have a plan for football and hurling, we have sorted out what we are doing at County Board level. How many other strategic things are left?

“This is about games, it is about playing at the end of the day. We are not perfect, everything is not perfect but everything is a lot better than it was and we have intentions of making it better. Unfortunately, we have to use the word more professional and that kind of sticks in my throat a bit at times because we are amateurs trying to do it professionally in our own time. We actually have a real united Management Committee for the first time ever and the thing that caused it was the home and away games because they all ended up meeting each other away from the meeting room. They got to know one another. There is a what's app group there and there is real good stuff going on between people and that was never there.

“We are in a position where if we can start stepping forward on the field, everything is there to keep it happening. We haven't heard this new direction yet or who those thirty people are they are going to bring in but I hear it has dwindled to 20 now but if there is thirty people out there who are only willing to work in certain circumstances, there is something wrong. Why aren't they in their clubs working? Who are they and where did they come from?”

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