Ballykinlar is key to future in Down

Ballykinlar is key to future in Down

6 January 2021

DOWN GAA county secretary Sean Og McAteer has said there potential for “imaginative funding” ahead of what is likely to be a very testing year financially at inter-county level.

All sporting bodies found their funds hit last year by the spread of covid-19 and the impact that had. 

With sport shelved for a large part of the year, and the same happening again in the early part of 2021, it continues to be a trying time.

With the virus still posing a significant threat going into the new year, it is likely that sport at all levels will continue to see many difficulties going forward. 

Conor Murray, an Irish Research Council Postgraduate scholar at the School of History and Geography at Dublin City University, has been analysing numbers from the GAA’s annual financial reports from 2015-19.

He has calculated the levels of grant money given to each county to fund games development and expenses.

Whilst at the top end of the scale, Dublin’s figure sits at €6.86 million for the period, for Down the figure is a much more modest €517,000, putting them in bottom place.

Mr McAteer said Down’s expenditure was in no way comparable with that of other counties.

“We are on the low side of the money list, no doubt,” he admitted. “We certainly have the ambition to begin to address the deficit. We want to be able to develop our coaching set-up, particularly in urban centres like Downpatrick, Newry, north Down, the Down parts of Belfast. Hopefully those opportunities will come up.”

Mr McAteer said the implementation of a Down training hub at Ballykinlar was a key aim when it comes to considering where spending will take place in Down GAA.

“The development at Ballykinlar is a huge thing, both for Down and the community in Ballykinlar. That is one of the key fronts we are working on,” he said.

“Of course though, we cannot take our eye of the importance of development in urban areas. We can see how much Dublin for example have benefited from utilising their urban areas, and the rewards they have reaped from that in recent years on the pitch, as well as financially.”

He did caution that, as ever, the availability of funding is major issue.

“The GAA took a huge hit financially in 2020 - that is likely to happen to some degree at least, again this year.

“In terms of us here in Down though, we are in a stronger position to deal with the climate I would like to think, certainly when compared to other northern counties.

“We have big urban centres which is vitally important. We can also explore the possibility of greater cross-border development with counties like Louth, and the use of the Dublin Institute of Technology. There is, going forward this year, a lot of potential for imaginative funding that we can use to our advantage here in Down.”

Another cornerstone of the approach to keeping Down GAA in good health is continuing to appeal to the younger generations coming through in the Mourne county.

“We need to try to make Gaelic Games the number one sport of choice for young kids in Down,” Mr McAteer said.

“If you look at our record from July of 2020 to the end of the year, we staged 1,200 games. A lot of those games were at an under-age level. Some clubs have got very very strong groups of kids at very young ages. 

“What we need to do is to ensure that those young people who come into the GAA in Down at that stage stay with it into adulthood.

“Our games need to be attractive and innovative going forward.

“That means we all need to keep pushing, keep the facilities as good as possible and promoting ourselves as well as we can.”