THE GAA in Australia, which has experienced an explosion of interest over the last decade, is expected to be further strengthened by the influx of young people leaving Ireland in search of employment.
However, General Secretary Gerard Roe, who is part of their delegation to Congress, points out that the effects of the recession on Australia’s east coast is forcing people to move on from Sydney and try their luck in cities like Brisbane and Perth.
“Since the recession started here (in Ireland) there have been more young people coming over, but they are finding it a wee bit harder than they were, even 12 months ago,’’ said Roe.
“Clubs are being contacted and they are helping out in any way that they can.’’
Currently, 63 clubs are affiliated to the Australasian Board (which has “county” status and sends a representative to Congress every year). “If you go back to 2000, we had roughly 900 people playing Gaelic games and now it’s over 3,000. It used to be just men’s football and hurling. Now you have men’s football, women’s football, minor football, hurling and camogie.
“Probably 70% of the membership is native Australians and the rest are ex-pats,’’ added Roe, a native of Antrim.
“Apart from Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, we’re into Wellington as well as Auckland. And, now we are starting to ‘fire up’ in Hobart in Tasmania as well as Dunedin and Christchurch in New Zealand.’’
The way the Association is administered, the five mainland Australian states, in addition to Auckland and New Zealand, have their own committee set-up and organise their own competitions. They are governed by the Australasian Board (made up of a president, secretary and treasurer), which provides ancillary facilities and practical help for the various units.
Coming to Congress, he explains, provides him with the opportunity to network with the other overseas units and meet the GAA hierarchy. “I also use the trip to meet sports manufacturers, the referees’ people, Croke Park officials and the Camogie Association.’’
The Australian delegation includes three other delegates, the newly-elected president of the New South Wales Board, Steve Carey, his brother Frank (they are both from Cork City) and outgoing president Brian Deane from Drimoleague, who has recently returned home.
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