Pat Kearney tonight hung on as chairman of the Galway county board, defeating challenger Mick Culhane by 146 votes to 110.
Culhane, a member of Pádraic Joyce’s Galway U20 football management team this year, had promised to bring Galway GAA into the 21st century, but failed to secure sufficient support among delegates to unseat the incumbent at the county convention in Salthill.
Having first been elected to the post in 2016, Kearney has served at the top table during a turbulent couple of years for the county and in his chairman’s speech, he hit out at the “abuse” that he and fellow officers have been subjected to.
“The abuse the officers have got on social media in the last three months is not acceptable,” began Kearney, who later remarked that he was “humbled” to be returned as chairman.
“I know we can do nothing about [the abuse] because social media is uncontrollable. They have been referred to as keyboard warriors. I wouldn't give them that status. It is evil, bad-minded. Two of our neighbouring counties referred these issues to the authorities. We decided not to, but the abuse hasn't been easy the last few months.”
Kearney was also hugely critical of local and national media, alleging there had been “non-factual reporting” on matters pertaining to Galway GAA in recent times. Following Micheál Donoghue's unexpected departure as Galway hurling manager in August, it was reported that one of the reasons the 2017 All-Ireland winning manager walked was because of a breakdown in relations with certain members of the county board executive.
“Some of the media reporting is probably speculation. We had it that we were ignoring the clubs and giving the two fingers to the clubs when Davy Fitzgerald was going to be appointed as manager of Galway.
Davy Fitzgerald was never going to be appointed as manager of Galway. All that was false, pure speculation.
“I have been vilified at times. I've been called a villain, a cowboy, all these names, on the media. Again, that is not acceptable. The media make mistakes, but non-factual reporting is not acceptable. There has been sloppy reporting, inaccurate reporting, non-factual reporting, which is not fair on volunteer officers who end up taking the stick for all of this.
"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but everybody isn't entitled to their own facts. That is what we have had in Galway for the last couple of weeks, from the local and national media.”
The county’s accounts for 2019 show a deficit of €261k, with county board treasurer Mike Burke insistent that a fundraising mechanism - which would deliver half a million euro each year - needs to be put in place as a matter of urgent priority. The county’s fundraising income collapsed in 2019, falling from €860k, in 2018, to €144k this year.
“We are using creditors money to fund Galway GAA. We should be paying people every 30 days, we are probably paying them every 90 days, just to survive. We are running a tight ship. Cash is an issue, but we will get there,” said Burke.
The treasurer said the continued negative publicity regarding the state of the county’s finances is “really rubbish”. Kearney said their financial systems was the envy of other counties.
It was revealed at convention that €593k was spent on the county’s senior football team this past year, with an outlay of €568k on the hurlers.
“There was a fair bit of negative commentary out there in the last few months, but I can tell you, as treasurer, every Galway team was well looked after from a financial point of view. The figures attest to that.”
Burke continued: “We lost out on €200k in 2019 because we failed to finish in the top three in the Leinster SHC and not making the Super 8s . By not progressing in either has serious consequences for our finances.
We have one of the highest [team] spends in the country. This is something we need to be wary of. When you spend and then fall short of expectations, you face a financial blackhole as fundraising collapses. So what I want to bring to Galway is a mechanism to fundraise each year that will help our teams.
“Our 2019 accounts show that we cannot continue to depend on our teams to achieve a certain degree of success each year. This leaves too much to chance. It is financially risky and will invite, at some point in the future, the reality that we will have to cut back significantly on the expenditure on our teams. We need to plan now to avoid this happening as we all know what the consequences will be in terms of achieving success.”
Pat Kearney stressed to delegates that the €140k spend on legal and professional fees in 2019 in no way relates to an employee of Croke Park who was working for Galway GAA.
“Speculation is out there with regard to this. There is no connection between them two cases,” Kearney insisted.