*Cathal Crowe, Thomas Byrne and Timmy Dooley.
CLARE HANDBALL say they have been “ignored again” after they were left out of a briefing with the Junior Minister for Sport when he visited the county.
Minister of State with responsibility for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne (FF) had his first visit to Co Clare on Thursday. The meeting has been described by clubs who attended as “very positive”.
While in the county he met with Clare GAA, Clare LGFA and Clare Camogie along with local GAA, soccer and rugby clubs. The Meath TD also canvassed alongside Fianna Fáil’s three candidates in the Shannon Municipal District, Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF), David Griffin (FF) and Rachel Hartigan (FF).
Clare GAA have been seeking a meeting with the Junior Minister as part of their efforts to secure funding to build an Astro-turf in Caherlohan. Byrne visited Caherlohan with Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) and Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) where they were met by Clare GAA Head of Operations, Deirdre Murphy, Clare GAA Chairman Kieran Keating, Clare GAA facilities manager David Hoey and Clare senior hurling manager Brian Lohan.
Senior officials in Clare Handball were unaware of the visit prior to Byrne’s arrival and have expressed their disappointment at being left out of the Clare GAA family. The decision on who attended is understood to have been decided by Deputy Crowe and Senator Dooley.
Chairman of Clare Handball, Tommy Hegarty told The Clare Echo, “It’s very disappointing to note that our local politicians didn’t see fit to include handball when non-GAA sporting organisations were included”.
Clarecastle native Hegarty added, “We were coming off the tremendous running of the National championships in Clare, it would have been a fantastic opportunity to try and promote handball with the Minister for Sport. It is another lost opportunity for the minnows of the GAA sporting family”.
Deputy Crowe told The Clare Echo that they had “an impossible job” in deciding who would be invited to the meeting. “Minister Byrne at short notice told us he was going to visit Clare, he gave two options, to visit six clubs and call to their grounds or pick a fixed venue and to double that amount of clubs so twelve could be met. Six clubs were met in the meeting room of Tulla GAA club and a further six in Clareabbey. It was a pretty impossible situation given that we have 126 applicants in from Co Clare, there was no way in the world that we would get all groups in”.
Meelick native Crowe explained, “I want to reiterate to clubs that the primary goal for getting the Minister down is that all Oireacthas members met the County Board in December to discuss development plans, we all had tasks from that meeting, I as the Fianna Fáil TD for the county undertook to organise a meeting with Minister Byrne. We tried to do the meeting in Dublin which would have been quicker to organise but he had a space in his diary which worked better, we met in Caherlohan and had a full meeting in Clareabbey. The main purpose of the day was to discuss their development plans and how Government could help, the clubs were an add-on, the meetings were quite short ranging from ten to fifteen minutes. I want to reassure all clubs that meeting the Minister though desirable isn’t a requirement to be approved for funding. In the last sports capital grant, all but five applications from Clare were successful so it was nearly a clean sweep of applications. I’d be very happy to meet with Clare Handball and other clubs, I want to see a maximum return for Clare, I love sport and have long hung up my boots but I spend weekends travelling to games”.
Head of Operations with Clare GAA, Deirdre Murphy said that the engagement was very positive. “We were absolutely delighted to meet with Minister Byrne. It was a really progressive meeting with representatives of Clare LGFA and Clare Camogie also present. We got the opportunity to show Minister Byrne around Caherlohan and Clareabbey. It is hugely important for us to try to get sports capital funding”.