Ryan, addressing the annual convention of the Waterford County Board last night in Lawlor’s Hotel, Dungarvan, made it clear that “redevelopment of the county grounds is high on the agenda — we, the county board officials, have been in discussions with GAA officials for the past two and a half years about the upgrade and development of Walsh Park.
“They have made it very clear to us that the city venue is the only venue they wish to pursue as regards upgrading and financing, due to its central location and its accessibility.
“It’s important for people to bear in mind that all major grounds around Ireland, including Croke Park, Thurles, Limerick, Killarney, Salthill and many others are located in cities or towns in the middle of residential areas.
“We hope to work with the Waterford Council and residents in the area for a satisfactory outcome for all. We appreciate the support and engagement of GAA officials at provincial and national levels on this initiative.
“We are not forgetting Fraher Field — our facilities always need to be upgraded there as well.”
Ryan’s comments come as Waterford bid to ensure they have a venue suitable for next year’s Munster senior hurling championship format, which involves home and away games for each county, and put an end to any speculation that Fraher Field in Dungarvan might by upgraded for those games rather than the city venue.
Ryan also pointed out that three years ago the Waterford board “had debts of approximately €700,000, this debt was indeed eliminated this year thanks to you, the clubs and also to a number of other donations and fundraising initiatives”, and he paid tribute to Club Deise, “which is so smoothly run by Declan O’Meara and his team... the financial survival of many of our clubs depends on this draw, so I implore you all to please encourage your members to support this fundraising initiative.”
The chairman sounded a note of warning about resources, however: “Our players are without a doubt our best asset — along with their families make huge sacrifices year in year out, and they deserve to be treated well.
“However, we as a county simply do not have the money to spend what others do... the GAA cannot talk about the amateur status of the Association and its importance on one hand, while on the other hand knowing what counties are spending on county teams and the drain that is on the finances of county boards all over the county, not alone Waterford. Maybe it is time for them to level the playing field.”
To that end Ryan referred to smaller crowds at club games: “Disappointingly, attendances at our club games are showing a worrying decrease, with attendances down 17,000 in the club senior hurling and football championships. It is vital that our clubs get the support of their communities therefore bringing colour, excitement and atmosphere to our matches.”
The chairman also hit out at abuse of players and officers on social media, saying personal criticism “on the likes of Twitter and Facebook can be keenly felt by family members of those involved”.
This was echoed by delegates, who pointed out that the abuse of officers was connected to the lack of competition for county board officerships, with the outgoing executive returned en masse.
The achievement of the county hurlers in getting to the All-Ireland senior final was duly noted, and county treasurer John Jackson thanked clubs for their understanding when seeking tickets for the All-Ireland hurling final — and the county board staff for handling those requests.
“We are really looking forward to 2018 when hopefully this team will go one step further and see the team climb the steps of the Hogan Stand and collect the Liam MacCarthy Cup,” said Ryan.
The five Waterford players who picked up All-Star hurling awards — Stephen O’Keeffe, Noel Connors, Jamie Barron, Kevin Moran, and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh — were congratulated, while the fact that the Deise footballers came so close to beating Cork in the Munster championship was also cited as grounds for optimism for the future.
A motion from Modeligo seeking a master fixture plan for clubs was defeated, while it was agreed to discuss motions from Stradbally and Tallow at the regularly scheduled county board meeting next month.