A changing of the guard is imminent for Clare and Limerick over the next eight days with the chairman of each county calling it a day.
Ballyea’s Michael O’Neill bids farewell having commenced his term at the same time as Tournafulla’s Liam Lenihan, who is one of five stepping down from the Limerick county executive.
Along with O’Neill in Clare, Syl O’Connor is exiting stage left as PRO as well as assistant secretary Des Crowe and Irish and cultural officer Tom Burke.
Change is good but in small doses and such upheaval has been privately scorned by some of Munster’s most seasoned officials.
O’Neill and Lenihan, though, aren’t among them. While they agree massive personnel switches aren’t ideal, they have little issue with the five-year rule.
“I don’t have a great problem with it,” says O’Neill. “I think it’s a good thing that the chairman would change every five years. Once you don’t have all the officers leaving at the one time. The secretary and treasurer will still be there so that doesn’t have a massive impact. I think the principle is good. Previously, you might have had people who were there forever and a day and other people might be afraid to challenge for those positions. A bit of freshness every now and again is good.”
O’Neill welcomed the fact that the original “hard and fast” rule was later relaxed to make treasurers exempt from the five-year rule.
Lenihan thinks five years is a sizeable enough window for a chairman to make his mark.
“It’s a personal opinion but I’m in favour of the five-year rule. Not for secretaries or treasurers either but it’s good to have new people coming into the other positions. They bring impetus to the whole thing.
“Five years is plenty enough time to try and achieve something in. Change is possible but it takes time and five years is ample.
“Obviously, it’s not good with a lot of people leaving positions in the same year but we have to embrace new faces. I don’t believe in staying around forever. The president only gets three years.”
While he savoured the honour, O’Neill isn’t too unhappy to be leaving the role.
“I’m delighted I can step down after five years in one sense. I’ve enjoyed the five years and I’m fortunate enough that my family are big into the GAA. It’s a labour of love and it doesn’t knock anything out of you.
“There would have been times when there were controversies. I take them seriously but I don’t lose sleep at night over them. I don’t think you should. If that’s happening you shouldn’t be in the job in the first place.
“I’m not trying to make light of it as such. It’s a tough job but if you treat people fair and honestly they’ll respond in kind.”
That’s not to say it isn’t taxing. Ask O’Neill to put a figure on the amount of “chairman time” he put in on a weekly basis and his estimation is startling.
“You’re realistically talking about an average 60-80 hours a week outside of your normal 40-50 hour working week.
“I work for a company 40 or 45 hours a week but the minimum you would do is 50 hours a week in the chairmanship.
“At the height of the season, you’d be doing five or six hours a night but this is a busy time of the year too with accounts and convention.
“There is no natural break from a county board perspective. I’m not trying to give the sob story on that. There is no closed season for officials no more than there is for players going to the gym and what have you.
“Come December, we’d be doing up our budgets again for next year and there simply is no break. It’s a business now and you have to run it like a business.
“As much as we wouldn’t be saying it too loudly, we are one of the boards who are in surplus this year.”
Limerick’s convention takes place in The Strand Hotel in Limerick city on Sunday with Clare’s set to take place tomorrow week.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved