To see photo's of from the County Board Meeting click on the line below and click on slide show in top left screen.



The early arrivers were there before me… and I thought I was early.  A few were taking the opportunity to examine our facilities, now that they were in the inner sanctum. Bit by bit the room was filling and the rows of seats were finding occupiers.  It reminded me of the bus on our school tours.  The middle ground was the less favoured.  Back row seats were much sought after.  Would there be trouble from this quarter?  Up front a few dedicated souls who meant business and were here participate.  Eventually, the middle ground would be filled, when no other option was left.

Little groupings were establishing themselves around the perimeter.  Heads down – close together in tight discussion of a serious nature, no doubt.  Every so often, one of the heads would pop up, a quick, periscope-like, scan all around to ensure noone was eavesdropping.  Was the real business of the night happening here?  Were the real decisions on Kerry GAA being made in these huddles?  Was the formal meeting just that – a formality?  I’m a new-comer and haven’t, yet, learned the unspoken rules, the nuances, the politics of this austere gathering. 

And still they came.  The room was filling up now.  Old pals hop-balling about recent club results and the like.  A few, in splendid isolation, had selected a seat in an unpopulated part of the room.  They were a study in concentration.  Eyes fixed on a point in the distance, they looked neither left nor right, for fear of making eye contact with someone and the subsequent embarrassment of not being invited over.  At the moment they were not being left in isolation, they had selected isolation – carefree souls, not loners.  I was one of these.  Still a lot to learn.  Still needed to serve my time before I could casually enter the domain of one of these huddles; before I had the right to hop ball with a colleague.  I was still an apprentice.

The empty seats were now few and far between, as the anointed hour arrived.  The top table, or more correctly, tables, was three-tiered - not unlike a wedding cake.  The main men – and men they were in the main – inhabited the middle tier up on the front of the platform.  The bottom tier was at ground level in front and the top tier was on the platform and behind the middle tier, raised by a high bench.  The occupiers, with legs dangled over the edge, could make no contact with the ground.  Again, visions of my old school-pals on a school tour came to mind – the wild boys down the back.

Order is called and proceedings are about to get under way.  There are a few preliminaries explains An Cathaoitleach  - or any variation on Chairman, Chair, Cathaoirligh, as he was referred to throughout the evening.  We didn’t once get the well versed “through the Chair”, though.  I am somewhat disappointed, as I always find this an amusing phrase and it conjures a picture of someone shouting through the smashed seat of an old chair – childhood memories of my misunderstanding of this phrase on first encountering it.  Isn’t it strange how these childhood images are so potent and durable?

The County Board Committee Meeting is being hosted in Dr. Crokes to commemorate our 125 years in existence.  An Cathaoirleach congratulates the Club, one of the oldest in the County and, indeed, the Country, and its contribution to Kerry GAA.  On the field of play, that contribution has a lineage from one of our founders, Dick Fitzgerald right up to the present Captain Colm Cooper and in administration from the present Patrick O’Sullivan right back to his namesake, Eugene O’Sullivan.  An Cathaoirleach enquires whether there was any relationship.  Frances, get out the family tree.

Our own Cathaoirleach was next.  The obligatory cúpla focal ar dtús and Vince welcomed everyone.  He wished the County Board and all County Teams the best of luck for the year.  Dr Crokes is particularly proud that our own Colm was Captain of the senior football team in our 125 Year.  Noone is more worthy of the honour.  He thanked the County Boards, past and present, for all their assistance given to Dr Crokes, particularly in the financing of the facilities, where the current meeting was now in progress.  Exit stage left

Next in the preliminary line-up was Kerry’s Eye’s promotion of the Buy Kerry Campaign.  Unemployment was affecting all aspects of Kerry communities, including GAA clubs.  This campaign hopes to counteract this dilemma.  Dr Crokes are again congratulated on reaching 125 Years.  Exit stage left.

The final preliminary was a presentation from Arlene on the Oral History Project.  Just as Arlene launched into well rehearsed piece, eloquently orated in her crisp, clipped northern accent, that dreaded blight that infects nearly every meeting, social event, Mass and conversation – a mobile phone - imposed itself, uninvited, on the proceedings.  The only saving grace, if it can be so described, is that the ring tone is the music to the Sunday Game.  However, the top table are not impressed, at all.  Scouring glances in the direction of the intruding and unwelcome sound were such that it would turn a good pint sour.  Check the milk for the post-meeting cuppa.  I reacted immediately and checked my own mobile and switched it to silent.  I quickly realised that my quick reaction had drawn some looks of disdain from my hinterland.  Did they think I was the proprietor of the offending mobile siren.  “No.  It came from over there” my pleading eyes tried to convey.  It was then that I observed the professional meeting attendees in action.  No quick reaction from them; no tell-tale signs of discourtesy on these buckos; no drawing of attention to themselves – too cute for that.  As casual as you like and after the infringement of the offending mobile had passed, one by one, mobiles were slipped out of the pocket and quickly flicked to silent.  The top professionals were able to carry out this manoeuvre within the confines of their pocket, never having to bring the potential offending mobile to the surface.  It was either that or they were counting the change in their pocket.  To add salt to the wound, some of the pros were the very same top table members that were so indignant, outraged and bearing the sourest pusses, when the original offence was committed.  There but for the grace of God go they!!!  Watch and learn… watch and learn.  No formal education or training course could teach you this.  Anyways, that should be the end of mobile interruptions!!!

Back to Arlene, who was pleading with us all to get at least ten of our clubmates to complete a form, to tell the stories about our clubs.  She wanted people’s stories, positive and negative.  Ten responses to complete a form.  But I thought this was an “Oral History Campaign”.  Should I ask the question?  I’m only an apprentice and had I earned the right to ask questions yet?  Better stay stum for the moment.  Arlene finished and another exit stage left.

At last, official proceeding are under way.  An Runai goes through the correspondence.  Was I hearing things?  No, it couldn’t be.  It was – another mobile was reverberating off the walls of our conclave.  Would the second offence attract a red card?  Would someone be ejected and given a mandatory two meeting ban?  Was there any video evidence?  Surely not – surely all phone with video capabilities were now turned off.  Again, frowns and looks of total disapproval are projected from the top table – some dispersed over the rim of spectacles that provide added value.  An almost indecipherable pause in proceedings was the most damning condemnation.  Inexperienced attendees may have let it slip by unnoticed.  But, a pause there was and it could not have been more emphatic if were for an hour.  It was deafening.  Surely now everyone had got the message – TURN OFF THE PHONES.  Amnesia must be prevalent… no… rampant at the top table.  For those who were most scornful in their scowls, following the second incident, were the very ones who had so recently carried a lethally live mobile, ready to awaken the dead with its ring-tone, during the earlier parts of the meeting.  As I say, pros to their fingertips.

Team progress reports follow.  An Cathaoirleach is managing this meeting bi-lingually.  The easy inter-mingling of an gaelin agus an béarla.  Tá sé cosuil le Micheál Ó Morchú agus Trom agus Éadrom nó an Micheál eile – Ó Muircheartaigh – agus é ag tabhairt amach mar gheall ar cluiche éigeann.  An Cathaoirleach and the former school principal is still educating.  He is explaining how we need to design a new Kerry GAA crest.  We can’t secure copyright on the existing crest and, consequently, cannot leverage any commercial value from it.  Finance or the lack of it is everywhere.  An idea springs to mind about raising some new finances.  It was conceived in An Cathaoirleach’s initial comments about Dr Crokes and its long service to Kerry GAA… remember?  He wondered about Patrick O’Sullivan’s lineage and whether it was connected to Eugene O’Sullivan.  Well why not try a variation on the programme “Who Do You Think You Are”, where the famous trace their family roots back through the ages.  Why not trace famous GAA players’ and administrators’ ancestry?  Could Cromwell be a forefather of An Cathaoirleach, the slight variation in the spelling of the surname, due to a change in allegiances?  Could there be a family connection between our own Rosie O’Donovan and O’Donovan Rossa – an obvious name reversal mishap that is unearthed in the 1901 census?  That reminds me… I must fill out the census form when I go home.

An Cathaoirleach announced that the County Football panel were venturing to foreign shores for short spell.  Cutbacks elsewhere would cover the cost.  Put to vote, noone was objecting.  Good luck lads and enjoy.  Noone begrudges ye the trip in view of the commitment ye put in for the glory of an Ríocht.  Enjoy?  What Jack has in store may not be s enoyable as all that!!!

CCC Report by An Runai is next on the agenda.  Unbelievable… another phone rings.  Looks that evoke John McEnroe all around – “You cannot be serious.”  Two warnings and still it persists.  Why do these guys have phones, at all.  Obviously, they think that nobody will ring them.  The poor lonely souls, without a friend in the world to ring them.  So, there is no need to turn my phone off or even put it to silent, as noone will ever ring me.  WELL THEY DID.  It must be a wrong number!

An interesting interaction between the floor and An Runai ensues.  An enquiry about the procedure to change match dates returns a helpful and clear response from An Runai.  “Send in your request and we’ll look at it… But, that’s all we’ll do…look at it.”  Very clear.

God Almighty.  Another phone.  Is this for real?  However, this time the reaction to the phone is faster than Gooch reacting to a pass in front of goal.  The phone is snapped off quicker than Colm could find the back of the net.  Not sure where precisely the scene of the crime was, the top table weren’t sure in what direction they should point their disdain.  Anyway, the moment had passed.  Again, schoolday memories return.  Remember that day we had the laughing box in physics class, which every time you took the lid off, hilarious laughter broke out of it.  When poor Doc. Gartland turned his back, someone opened the can for a split second to release a peel of laughter.  The hearing not being the best, Doc wasn’t sure if he was hearing correctly.  But soon it was clear.  One of the Einsteins in the desks was blackguarding.  Open the can and pass it to someone else.  The Doc was getting frustrated now at not being able to locate the source of his annoyance.  He was getting himself into an awful state.  Eventually, he tracked it down and one poor unfortunate was dragged from the desk with can in hand.  Guilty.  Caught red-handed, like a murderer with a smoking gun over a dead body.  Of course, the inevitable happened.  While being dragged out of his desk, my unfortunate classmate dropped the can and the lid bounced off… and of course, all hell broke loose when the can poured forth the most hilarious and contagious of laughters.  The Doc did not find it one bit funny.  We were bent over with pure evil, unremorseful and unpitying howls and guffaws.  The Doc shouting “Stop it.  Stop it now” as the can continued to spew out its merriment to an unappreciative Doc and a very appreciative class of fifth year students.  Where was the lid?  It couldn’t be found.  Suspicion was that Lamb Doyle had pocketed it and wouldn’t own up.  ‘Twas never be confirmed.  Eventually, the laughing box was ejected out of the first floor window on to the school yard.  The fall from the first floor did no damage.  It was the sudden stop, which also caused a sudden stop to its laughing.  The laughing soon vanished from the class also.  Poor Doc stood at the top of the class, totally exhausted and defeated.  I can still see the raised vain in the middle of his forehead pulsating dangerously.  He sat down and the rest of class was spent in silence.  “Read pages 121 to 130.”  God, we were evil prats and so unfeeling.  But at the time it was just a bit of fun… at least for us.  Poor Doc.  Gone to his eternal rest now and how well he deserves a seat at the right-hand…  His hell was fifth year physics class of ’75.  A direct road to Heaven surely awaited him, bypassing any time in Purgatory.  The mobile ringing throughout this meeting is surely not an updated version our laughing box?  Surely, this can’t be happening?  The Priomh Oide is not amused anyway.  I am expecting a loud “Cuineas anois buachailli is cailini” to emanate from tús an seomra. “Ná bi dana anois.”

Next up was transfer applications.  It was noticeable that people sat up for this one.  This could be contentious and it wouldn’t do to miss out on any little detail.  This topic always has the potential to start a riot.  Case by case, presented by An Runai; case by case voted on and passed or rejected as recommended by the CCC.  All very polite.  Do I detect an air of disappointment that this went through all too smoothly?  There’s nothing like a good robust argument in full belt and you not involved at all – except, perhaps, to raise the tempo, if were to drop any bit.  Not tonight Josephine. 

Then there were a few cases up for derogation from the transfer rules.  These cases went through without too much bother also.  However, they did raise comments that correct registration of players in the first instance would obviate the need for many of these applications afterwards.  The Parish Rule got an airing and suddenly we were talking of Boundary Commissions.  A history of previous decisions in these cases by the County Board was related to all who cared to listen.  Arlene, come back.  If its Oral History you want, here it is in abundance.  We were regaled with stories of the race that was developing to get kids registered with clubs as young as possible.  One such story was of an eager club Registrar attempting to register a child at conception!!!  Order had to be restored before all decorum was lost.

Lotto time and I am asked to draw one of the balls.  Don’t mess up, now.  The first time you are asked to do something and you better do it right.  This could be a test… to see whether you are worthy.  Ball drawn and quickly back to your seat.  My senior colleague is also asked to draw a ball.  Long-serving and accepted member of this conclave, he is more assured in the execution of his duty.  Some day I’ll attain that assuredness and even speak in open forum.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You’re still an apprentice. 

Central Council delegate presents the more contentious motions for the Annual Delegate Conference, seeking direction from the attendance.  Nothing of real contention, except maybe the compulsory wearing of gum-shields by all footballers in the future.  Being a parent, who had to re-mortgage the house in order to pay for dental work and the infamous “railway tracks” of one of my kids, I’m all for it.  While less interesting topics are being discussed, numerous side-bars and mumblings begin to form.  It is hard to find the focus point of the meeting.  It’s been a long one and people are getting tired.  An Cathaoirleach calls for order and we’re back on track. 

A motion about “B” teams being allowed into Intermediate competitions was brought to the notice of a delegate, whom An Cathaoirleach thought might have interest.  The delegate took a tangent off the main point of the motion.  There was a related subject he was obviously waiting to vent his anger at.  A Munster official had checked his club’s field and deemed it unfit on the day to host a Munster competition.  It was brought to the attention of all present, that this official had walked the field in “low shoes”.  The field presented no obstacle to this official in his perambulations and the delegate made the point that the official was a man of considerable size and weight.  To add insult to injury the game was moved to Cork of all places.  As the meeting broke into a combination of comment and some skittyishness, it became difficult to follow the full conversation.  However, there were utterances about the dictatorship of non-elected officers!!!  An Cathaoirleach had a job to restore order again. 

A few wrap-up issues followed.  A greyhound night was being planned, with best dressed man and woman included.  This was followed by a call for the return of trophies.  A reminder about transfers abroad.  Also, say a person transfers to Cork.  He would not be allowed back to his own club until next year.  One comment from the floor suggested that if a member of his club transferred to a Cork club, he would never be allowed back by the club.

We’re on the home track now and in the midst of the restless rustling of agitated feet another sound pierces the air.  Another blasted phone.  Everyone’s too tired.  Even the top table hardly acknowledge what is the fifth infringement by the mobile plague.  Tá An Cathaoirleach ag caint aris.  Buoichas mór do na Chrochaigh agus an fáilte a chuir siad ar an cruinne. 

Ach tá Iar Chathaoirleach ina sheasamh agus scéal eile aige.  He had met a Crokes stalwart on his way into the meeting – the legendary Jackie Looney.  The meeting was reminded of the debt of gratitude that was owed to Jackie and Dr Crokes.  It appears in previous times, only the upper class could attend these County Delegate meetings – the gentry – those clubs who participated in the County Championship.  However, it was a Crokes motion moved by our own Jackie and seconded by one illustrious Donie Sheehan that permitted delegates of all clubs to participate in these meetings.  The Iar Chathaoirleach recounted that he was Cathaoirleach at the time and so the motion was passed.  One got the sense that votes were not required.  Comments from the floor lauded An Iar Chathaoirleach as a good democrat.

Meeting closed and the Dr Crokes' Events Committee are in full swing bringing out tea, coffee, sandwiches, biscuits, cakes and all manner of delights.  The delegates indulge their taste buds and stomachs for a period.  The small groupings that were there at before the show started are re-convening to finish off any outstanding business that wasn't attended to earlier.  One or two drag on for a while longer.  But eventually, the house was cleared.  Lock up and last one leaving switch off the lights.


Hurler on the Ditch