Longford GAA: Angry Albert Cooney blasts social media negativity

Extracts from Chairperson's Address to the annual Convention

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Rathcline clubman Albert Cooney, who was re-elected unopposed for a second term as Longford GAA Chairperson at the virtual Convention via zoom on Thursday night last

Rathcline clubman Albert Cooney, re-elected unopposed for a second term as Longford GAA Chairperson, delivered a wide ranging address to the virtual Convention via zoom on Thursday night last and was in a rather angry mood when he reflected on the social media negativity.  

“Managing GAA affairs of any county is a very responsible task, and Longford is no different. We get most decisions right, but we will never get everything right no matter how much we try. When issues arise that may not be to the satisfaction of everyone, we have no problem being made aware of the problem, and if we deserve criticism, no problem with it being delivered to us in the proper manner and spirit, ie, for a positive outcome. 

“Social media platforms are very useful, when used in the proper fashion for sharing news items, social contact and general communications as they were originally intended. Unfortunately, there is a certain element of society that hide behind false identity while they vent their anger, criticism, and false accusations at our volunteer officers, team managers, players and general members, often destroying their confidence and ability to carry out their allotted tasks. 

“We had a number  of incidents of this type this year in Longford, some of which were very direct and personal, causing a lot of distress for the families of the victims. This is not the type of reward that our volunteers expect and should not be subjected to this type of abuse. Shame on the individuals that engage in this activity, you are not welcome at the GAA table.”

Covid-19 

“History in the making, the first ever live broadcast of Annual Convention hosted by Cumann Luthchleas Gael Coiste Chontae Longfoirt and first ever postal vote system for election of officers.

“As we concluded the 2019 convention exactly this time last year and I commenced my first term as Cathaoirleach, nobody could have predicted the turbulent year that lay ahead for our nation and more importantly the GAA organisation.

“News had broken in November 2019 of a new disease discovered in China known as Coronavirus, later being titled Covid-19, which would arrive on our shores on or about February 2020, threatening the health status of our nation, economic stability, our social and sporting culture. 

“As in all previous national crisis, the Irish nation rallied, particularly the medical doctors, nurses, care assistants etc., all of whom contributed extraordinary commitment and dedication while caring for the health of their patients, working under difficult circumstances often putting their own lives in danger. 

“We must never forget their heroic efforts, especially the members of Longford GAA who are employed within the health services. You truly are heroes of the nation and hopefully someday you will get your just reward.

“Longford GAA played their part in the crisis, and to all the members and footballers of our twenty one clubs, for you voluntary time and assistance extended to the elderly and isolated in the various communities throughout the county, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate each one of you for a magnificent gesture of goodwill and generosity. This was a true demonstration of the unique and important position of a GAA club within its community and we must never lose that identity.

“When lockdown was introduced mid-March, our administrators at national level were faced with some very tough decisions. I think you would all agree with me that Uachtarain Sean O Horain and his team at Pairc an Crocaigh, demonstrated good leadership throughout the crisis that resulted in the National League being completed and a full All-Ireland championship about to be completed. Well done to everybody.

“While there was a negative impact on our national sport, there were some very positive aspects as well. Would we be considering a split season competition calendar for club and county which is now a reality and is a huge step forward. At local level, we have introduced electronic ticketing for games admission, televised live club games both locally through our live stream partners and nationally via RTE and TG4. This is just an example of some of the decisions that were made because of Covid, all having a very positive impact.”

Senior Football

“On the playing field, it was a tough year, but there were some positives. The Senior football team had a very good year as they commenced the season winning the O’Byrne Cup for the third time in Longford’s history, beating Kildare, Carlow, Dublin and in the final, Offaly at O’Connor Park. It  was a memorable achievement for the players and management, particularly for the three main members of the management team, Padraic Davis, Paul Barden and Donal Ledwith, as they were members of the 2000 winning team.

“Following that win, we commenced our National League campaign which was reasonably successful. We achieved wins against Louth, Leitrim and Tipperary, draw with Offaly, lost to Down and Derry and the in consultation with Cork County board, the final game against Cork did not take place as it would have made no difference to the final placings in the division and helped to reduce the risks of spreading Covid 19. 

“Longford retained Division Three status, and only for the unfortunate loss against Down, we probably would have gained promotion to Division 2. 

“For the coming season I would not be happy, as are team management, with the decision by headquarters to split the league groupings into two groups of four as it places a handicap on our chances and the weaker counties in our quest for promotion from our respective divisions.

“I understand the logic behind the decision, but I hope it is for this year only and does not become the norm. The National League has been an excellent competition, has stood the test of time and is a true measure of a county’s national standing.

“The Leinster Championship campaign was far from ideal with the first round commencing in November, following a stop start affair and uncertainty surrounding the availability of players following large outbreaks of Covid-19 throughout the county.

“We beat Louth in our first game at Cusack Park, Mullingar, a game played in atrocious conditions with some of our leading players receiving niggling injuries, and which probably impinged on our ability to beat Laois the following Sunday at Pearse Park.

“The loss to Laois was very disappointing for players, management and supporters alike, but the team must be commended for their attitude and commitment throughout the year and I am looking forward to the new campaign in 2021, with some new players, and a few of the older players returning to bolster the squad.”

Senior Hurling

“Longford hurlers had a mixed season, having a successful National League campaign with wins against Monaghan and Louth, draw with Armagh, and defeats to Donegal and Tyrone, thus retaining Division 3A status. 

“The Nicky Rackard Cup competition commenced on the last Saturday in October v Donegal in Letterkenny resulting in two-point loss for Longford and another two point loss to Leitrim in Pearse Park two weeks later, and a drop to the Lory Meagher Cup competition for 2021. 

“Players and management were absolutely devastated after the loss against Leitrim, as they had not performed on the day, as can often happen. They were fancied to win that game, but the restrictions on training and preparation in the lead up to the competition did not help the cause. 

“To all of the players, I extend a sincere thanks, for your efforts at training and games, you all can hold your heads high and look forward to the 2021 season.

“I thank Derek Frehill and his management team for the huge commitment and effort they have bestowed upon Longford hurling during their tenure to date, and as they have been re-appointed for another year.

“I know you all join with me wishing them the best of luck for 2021. As we now have only three active hurling clubs in the county, it is becoming more difficult to sustain an intercounty hurling squad into the future, especially with the costs associated and the very limited number of young players participating at under-age.”

Club Scene

“On the local club scene, despite the restrictions, there was a lot of competitive football played, especially within the underage sections, with only a few games remaining to be completed within U-14 and Juvenile section sections. Well done to all clubs, players, mentors and parents for their continued volunteer contribution to a very important section of our games within the county. Without your commitment and hard work, the future of football would be very bleak. 

“Plenty of competition activity within the adult section as well, but unfortunately no competitions were completed with the exception of the Senior Hurling championship. Wolfe Tones were victorious on this occasion, winning the Duignan memorial cup by beating their rivals Longford Slashers in a very entertaining final played in very wet conditions at Pearse Park. Congratulations and well done. 

“Sustainability of hurling within our county is under threat as we now have only three competing clubs. Longford County Board is committed to promoting the sport and its continuation, but we do need assistance from the existing hurling clubs and its members by helping to promote and develop hurling in other clubs where there is an interest in playing the game. 

“From my experience in dealings with hurling this year and trying to solve a fixture crisis, I have reached the conclusion that there was way too much emphasis on winning at all costs. Attitudes will have to change, with clubs working much more together, trusting each other, view hurling more as a very entertaining hobby and sport, otherwise the writing is on the wall. 

“It is a great disappointment to me and all members of management that our adult football competitions were not completed on time. There are a number of reasons why this happened, fixture pile up and delays, Covid outbreak within the county, and foolish celebration scenes nationally resulting in Croke Park suddenly calling a halt to all games. We are one of eleven other counties in this position. 

“Senior, Intermediate and Junior championships are almost complete, and we are committed to resuming those competitions, when possible, early in the New Year, but the destiny of those games lie in the hands of the government and Croke Park at the moment. We will keep the affected clubs updated as developments unfold. Remaining league competitions will not take place. 

Referees

“To our referees once again I say thank you very much for all your efforts, dedication and loyalty displayed for the cause of football in Longford. Once again, you have been fantastic in your efforts to deliver football and hurling competition in Longford and without you, that could not happen. 

“As has been stated many times before, the age profile of our referee team is going in the wrong direction, numbers available are reducing each year and this will eventually lead to total crisis. Clubs must now act and help solve this problem in conjunction with the referee recruitment programme which will be coordinated by the incoming referee committee.”

Scor Success

“Another positive note for Longford GAA this year was the successful performance of Erin Ross from Ballymore club at the National Scor Finals in NEC in Killarney. Erin exhibited a sterling performance in the Solo Singing competition and was duly awarded an All-Ireland medal for her efforts. This was a fantastic personal achievement and I know you all join with me in extending a huge congratulations to her.”

Sponsors 

“Many thanks to all our sponsors in 2020, in what was a very difficult year for all companies and business outlets nationwide, but as always, our very loyal group sponsors stood behind us all the way. To our main sponsors Glennon Brothers a huge thanks for your continued support and assistance. 

“To Peter Hanley Motors, Mulleady Group, The Rustic Inn, Cooney’s Hotel Ballymahon, McDonalds and all other sponsors, you have been all very loyal to Longford GAA down the years which we deeply appreciate and thank you very much. 

“Club Longford,  under the stewardship of Mark Connellan and Thomas Conefrey had a very successful inaugural year. Despite the Covid crisis, they along with all other committee members worked very hard, remained very positive and were rewarded with a total income of nearly €60,000. On behalf of Longford County GAA, we thank you all very much for your support and dedication.”