IRELAND is trapped in an economic vortex, emigration and unemployment levels are soaring.
So why then has Con Hogan decided to enter the race to become GAA President?
“These uncertain times mean there are huge challenges for the Association,” the former Tipperary chairman said last night, “but it also means huge opportunities for the Association.
Hogan is a well-qualified candidate to join former Leinster Council chief Liam O’Neill in the race to succeed Christy Cooney in the Association’s prestigious role.
A member of the Management Committee at Croke Park, Hogan has also spearheaded multi-million euro developments of Semple Stadium including the flood-lighting of the famous arena. He is currently a GAA Trustee.
“A number of people in Tipperary and outside the county are of the belief I should stand. And I have decided to do just that,” he continued.
“I have many years of administrative experience in the Association from club, divisional, county board level up to working with Croke Park. I have been very involved in many changes in the Association in the last 10 years.
“I have an insight into the issues facing the Association and the experience to lead the Association in uncertain times.”
Uncertain times is the polite way of describing the worst financial crisis in the state’s history which is having an adverse effect on Association coffers.
Yet Hogan is convinced that the GAA will be the one constant that many in Ireland will turn to when times are at their worst.
He argued: “The GAA has never been as strong but what it must not do is become complacent.
“The biggest issues facing the Association are in terms of economic uncertainty. Many of our members are unemployed and may be forced abroad while a lot of funding for development work has been hit.
“But I believe that in uncertain times the GAA has a lot to offer its members. In the past, in times of high unemployment, the GAA was always a haven where people could turn and maintain a sense of value and worth to the community. And I believe the same will apply again.
“Currently the GAA, in co-operation with the GPA, have programmes to help intercounty players find employment, develop their CVs and themselves. But you could have models of that approach at county and club level. There are people in every county and club who have those skills and could come together and help one another.”
The growing exodus from rural to urban Ireland, is according to the Tipperary man, another challenge facing the Association.
“More and more of our members are leaving rural areas. So we have a situation where rural clubs are being hit and struggling and then we have an influx of people in urban areas who now need to be catered for.
“Take the greater Dublin area as an example; the potential there alone is enormous for the Association. But more needs to be done to capitalise on these trends. We need to consider structures and systems to ensure the continued growth and survival of clubs in both cases.”
He continued: “Another major interest I have is in games development and directing resources towards that, the development of GAA at juvenile level and addressing the issue of fall-off in players from 16 onwards is another area.”
One of the cause celebrés of Championship 2010 has been video technology. Joe Sheridan’s Leinster final winning goal, Benny Coulter’s fisted effort which helped secure Down’s passage to an All-Ireland decider along with a number of contentious points in both codes have many clamouring for the GAA to take the lead of their rugby cousins. Hogan is ruling nothing in – or out.
He argued: “You have to be careful when you are addressing the issue of video technology. What do you mean when you say video technology? Are you looking to see if a ball was over the line or over the bar, or a decision made, or not made in the lead up to the incident.
“I would welcome the debate on the issue of video technology but I think it is important that we don’t just jump into the issue of video technology without thinking it through.”
Hogan said he was ‘pretty satisfied’ with the GAA’s disciplinary systems.
“The changes in our disciplinary procedures are working well. A few years ago it was quite common to have High Court injunctions by players or clubs and county boards. Thankfully that doesn’t happen any more. The new system from where the Central Competitions Control Committee start the process right up to Disputes Resolution Authority is working well and most counties would feel that is the case.”
The growth of television coverage is another issue facing any incoming president. Does Hogan feel there is too few or too many high profile games on the box?
“There has to be a balance. Perhaps the balance has tipped towards too many TV games this year and there maybe should be some reduction in that. But I don’t think you could underestimate the promotional value which television brings to the GAA.”
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