No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

A year of challenges ahead

A general view of the 2012 Donegal GAA convention. No media will be present at this weekend's convention.

A general view of the 2012 Donegal GAA convention. No media will be present at this weekend’s convention.

COUNTY convention takes place this Sunday and there are some important positions up for grabs and there’ll be some keen contests for those positions.

The positions of Vice Chairman, Treasurer, PRO and Ulster Council delegates will all be there for the taking and there’ll be tight votes for all four.


There is a huge year ahead in 2014 on the field after a disappointing 2013 in terms of results, but off the field there are many challenges.

It is an extremely difficult environment in terms of trying to get money in.

There will be the main talking points which are likely to centre on finance and the development of the Centre of Excellence in Convoy. These are major items.

For me they are intertwined and whoever gets in the priority must be getting the Centre of Excellence finished. We have two excellent pitches there already being used, two more are on the way and now we must all put shoulder to wheel and ensure that we get the dressing rooms and lights that will give us a development of which we can be immensely proud.

A lot of teams at different grades and codes have been using it. What an asset it will be when it’s up and running properly.

We need to have all members singing off the hymnsheet of getting the Centre completed.

Sunday’s election of officers is tight to call so guessing who’ll be involved is difficult.


The Vice Chair’s position looks like being a fight between Dan Hartnett and Denis Ellis, with Danny McNamee putting his lot in for the Treasurer’s post, where he’ll be in a race against Cieran Kelly.

The Treasurer’s position is the poisoned chalice, but fair play to the two men who have put their names forward. You’re talking about a huge business that is trading in millions now. You have the young pretender Kelly against the former county treasurer and chairman in McNamee. Fair play to them for putting their neck out into such a difficult position. Even in good times, the job of the treasurer is not easy, never mind in the climate in which we now reside.

Oisin Cannon and Ed Byrne are going for PRO and I was just thinking that, if Oisin is elected he would surely become one of the youngest ever holders of a position on the Executive.

Ulster Council will be a really hot race with four big names vying for just two seats: the sitting members Brendan Kelly and Pat Connaghan who face challenge from two big hitters in PJ McGowan and Grace Boyle. This is perhaps one of the most eagerly-awaited contests on the day.

Sean Dunnion will be back unopposed, as will a number of other officers. It will have been a difficult and trying year for the Chairman, Sean Dunnion, and certainly his first year in the Chair will have been something of the baptism of fire.

The fact that so many are being returned unopposed would indicate a certain apathy, but I would look on the positive of the fact that there are many new names and fresh faces on the ballot papers this year. In times gone by it could have been a case of rearranging the chairs, but now we have some new people putting their names forward.

In terms of the challenges they face, there are some major issues that will be staring at them.

Fixtures will be a huge issue going forward for 2014 and Croke Park have already been making suggestions. There are a lot of worries and concerns about fixtures and really the GAA must find a solution to the perennial problem of club fixtures and making space for them on the calendar.

Joe Gibbons spoke in this paper earlier this week about the difficulty in planning a wedding, never mind in trying to plan a simple holiday. Joe Gibbons has given his life to his club, Glenswilly, and there are countless other examples like Joe Gibbons across the county and around the country.

The time has come for all the talking to stop and for people in important positions to start making the hard calls.

In fairness to the Donegal CCC, the fixtures ran pretty smoothly in 2013.

Emigration is a huge factor in defining the GAA’s road in the coming years. I would genuinely fear for the future of some of our clubs going forward – none more so than my own club, Na Rossa. We were looking last week at the AGM at the age profile of the club’s players. We could only field one team this season and towards the end of the year we struggled to even field that one team.

We had only two players, in total, between the ages of 20 and 30. We have plenty of players over 30 and under 20. The problem facing the club is when the older lads step away and there will be the inevitable problem of young lads leaving the area for education or employment.

There is nobody moving into the area and the geography is such that it is difficuly to get to and from Leitir on public transport if you’re a player away from home who doesn’t drive. You can’t force a player to stay simply because of football.

What can be done, though?

It is worrying when you have the very real possibility that the club will not exist at a point in the near future. We have lost nine players in the last six months, another four or five have since departed and it’s a major concern. Trying to address this and find a solution to it is the big quandry facing the clubs. We’re just one example of a club facing this difficulty and we certainly aren’t alone in this respect.

The concern is that it will get worse before it gets better. These are all issues that will reach boiling point before too long.

Good luck to everyone who has put their name forward for Sunday!

Have you a comment to make on any of the above, or would you like Declan to raise an issue in the column? If so, you can get in touch by emailing



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Donegal face Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park on Saturday at 5pm.