County Chairperson, Micheál Martin, provides insight into his first year in charge.
You have just completed your first full year as chairperson, what have been the most memorable moments of 2021 for Wexford GAA in your opinion?
In an overall context, I think the running of our competitions from Under 13 to Adult would have to be the highlight. We have completed thousands of games across both codes with the minimum of disruption from Covid-19. The games have given tremendous entertainment to many people, both at home and, with the advent of streaming, to those abroad. The voluntary effort and work behind the scenes to ensure that that our games get played, and displayed, is immense and I am very appreciative of that effort.
Other highlights would be the continuation of our Inclusion Programme and the development of our coaching programmes. The game that gave me the most pleasure was the championship win for our senior footballers in Aughrim in what was a tremendous performance.
Are there any moments you would prefer to forget?
The Leinster senior hurling semi-final defeat was very disappointing for us all, in that it was a very small margin that cost us the game and ultimately the chance of a successful season.
Off the field, the unfortunate mistake in the draw for the Intermediate Hurling championship was a difficult time. We learned a valuable lesson and the professionalism of subsequent draws was outstanding. Unfortunately, by its nature, the hype machine of social media only focusses on when things go wrong and not when things are done really well. Sport and sports administration always has games, days or moments that you would prefer to forget but it is important to focus on how we can do things better and improve. For the most part, I feel we have done that.
In March, you set out a plan for the next five years, can you give us an idea of the plan and how it is going?
The plan was the culmination of three years’ work and consultation across our members. It sets out our vision for the future and how we plan on getting there. It covers all the key areas but to summarise, we want to have more players playing, we want to provide better facilities, we want a higher standard of performance, and we want Wexford GAA to be the lead sporting organisation in promoting core community values as well as the physical, mental and social wellbeing of our county.
The plan is on the agenda of every meeting, and we are evaluating progress on a constant basis. It cannot be a fixed document as with the current uncertain global environment, changes need to be made on a constant basis.
The plans for the Wexford GAA Centre of Excellence received a recent setback. What are the next steps?
It was really disappointing, but we now aim to engage with the local community, the Local Authority and the necessary professionals in relation to the matter. We are committed to developing a centre of excellence and inclusion that meets the needs of the Gaelic games family within our county as part of our Strategic Plan.
We have four important capital infrastructure projects as part of our plan, and we will evaluate the order in which we will now deliver them. We will bring a proposal to clubs in the coming weeks to proceed with the floodlighting of Chadwicks Wexford Park.
What are the projected costs of delivering the projects within the plan?
The pre-Covid estimate of our infrastructure projects was €5,000,000 and that is likely to have increased with the upsurge in building costs. We have business plans prepared to deliver these projects and have already ringfenced €1,000,000 of our funds for these projects. We have had a strong financial year in 2021 and we are now in a position to start delivery of these badly needed projects.
What do you see as the key challenge for the GAA at national level?
If I were to pick one key challenge it would be to define a proper pathway from 17-21 with age grades. Recommendations were made that were only partially implemented which has left a vacuum and has created unease. It may now be that flexibility should be given to each county to implement the policy that suits their own needs.
I firmly believe that the Association needs a comprehensive strategic review, similar to that conducted in 2002.
What do you see as the priorities for Wexford GAA 2022?
The priority is to review our games programme and cement a structure that meets the needs of a dual code county like ours so as to ensure that we are retaining players through the age grades and on to adult. Ultimately, we are about providing games and that should always be the number one priority.
Off the field, our priority is to invest in people. We have commenced a Next Generation programme that aims to develop the leadership skills of our talented young players. This will be further developed in 2022. I would like to build on that across all areas. We need more people and new people with fresh ideas across every facet of our organisation. The sustainability of our progress is dependent on a huge voluntary input.
Key Aims of Strategic Plan
A player development pathway which provides playing time players of all abilities.
A €5 million infrastructure plan to finish the Halo Tiles Wexford GAA Centre of Excellence, upgrade Chadwicks Wexford Park and develop a 4G Floodlit all-weather pitch in Wexford town which will be available for use by clubs, schools and county teams.
A performance platform that will ensure our teams fulfil their potential and facilitate our county teams towards achieving the ultimate prize.
An inclusion programme that will see VIP (Very Important Player) coaching clinics which offer a quality sporting experience to children with autism and special needs in Wexford who may find it difficult to successfully participate in mainstream sports.
A Well Being programme that will reach 5,000 pupils per year.