I was reflecting this morning on one of Dalai Lama’s instructions for life where he states “When you realise you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it”. What a pity our County Board don’t follow the Dalai Lama’s words of wisdom!
Even against the backdrop of what has happened recently it is never too late to take corrective action and in many ways it is now critical that we do something. Unfortunately there is still uncertainty as to who will take the corrective steps.
Two weeks ago I initiated a campaign for change within our County Board and within a matter of days the campaign and those supporting it has grown. The vast majority of those now behind the campaign are ordinary supporters who have Mayo’s best interest at heart. What I have also found is that large elements of those who have contacted me actually reside outside the county which just proves the power of Social Media and the interest the Mayo diaspora has in Mayo GAA affairs. Our diaspora have now stood up and want to be counted, so they need to be listened to.
In life and in business we must evolve and embrace change or else we will wither and die. So has the time finally arrived for Mayo GAA to embrace change or will it continue along similar lines and suffer as a consequence? Personally, I think we have reached a major crossroads and what we do next could have a major impact on our future, be that positive or negative.
Mayo have produced the raw material for decades. Since 1989, Mayo teams have made final after final at all levels, proving that as a county we have what is required to compete at the highest levels. Unfortunately, what may appear to many as huge success has become a sense of embarrassment for our great county. Words such as ‘bottlers’, ‘chokers’, ‘failure’, have become synonymous with Mayo GAA. James Horan went a huge distance in trying to eradicate the aforementioned words from the Mayo GAA vocabulary and huge credit is due to him for his efforts.
For teams to go that extra inch, to gain that vital yard it needs not just quality managers and players. It requires a professional, open and integrated organisation which knows what is required to succeed in the competitive sporting arena which is the GAA. This organisation must also be in tune with its most important element, the people it represents, the supporters of this majestic county.
I have no doubt but the findings of the survey which will be completed on Sunday 26th October will provide us all with a measured response to the various questions posed in Mayo over the last few weeks. How we use this information will play a major part in the future of Mayo GAA. By ignoring it, I have no doubt but we will continue to fail; by embracing it, we will drive change which will bring us to a new and hopefully more successful place in our journey.
I see the clubs as the fulcrum, the wheelhouse for the direction we take and the ultimate holders of power in Mayo GAA. The County Board should be answerable to them for implementing an agreed strategy in the best interests of all stakeholders of Mayo GAA. The clubs through the County Board need to reach out and embrace the huge goodwill which exists from within the Mayo diaspora. Many of the individuals who make up the diaspora can and will contribute in an enormous way to the betterment of Mayo GAA, that I have no doubt.
Just ask my good friend John Gallagher, who is the Chairman of the Belmullet GAA club, about how the Belmullet diaspora helped my home club deliver on its long held ambition to own its own facilities. I have no doubt but he will tell you that without the help of the Belmullet diaspora the club’s dreams would never have been realised.
Imagine a Mayo GAA Foundation with respected and experienced individuals sitting on its Board supported by a full-time Commercial Director who will implement its fundraising strategy on a global basis. By taking this approach we could develop a fundraising structure which will cater for all supporters of Mayo GAA who wish to contribute. Cáirde Mhaigheo could sit as one element of this Foundation. If appropriately structured and with the support of Croke Park this Foundation could remove the burden of repaying the McHale Park debt from the clubs which will allow the clubs to do what they are there to do which is develop our future stars.
Imagine a Mayo GAA Coaching Academy directed by the likes of James Horan, Kevin O’Neill, TJ Kilgallon, Ciaran McDonald and Peter Forde and to include a full-time Director of Coaching to implement its strategy.
Imagine a network of Mayo business people from around Ireland who will assist players to secure employment here in Ireland so that we can keep our best players at home to play for our county.
The following illustrative diagram might assist the thinking behind the Strategic Plan:
If my initiative can demonstrate to the clubs of Mayo that there is an alternative way and that the supporters and the diaspora can help them then I really believe it was worth the effort. I do hope that the clubs of Mayo on behalf of its magnificent and loyal followers will come together and regain control of our County Board and in doing so open it up to the huge amount of goodwill which exists. If we do this I have no doubt that our county will stand shoulder to shoulder with the other great counties of the GAA. This is within our control, we just need to want it badly enough.
If you want to complete the Mayo GAA Supporters’ survey, click here.