Down convention goes virtual due to the pandemic

Down convention goes virtual due to the pandemic

16 December 2020

THIS year’s Down County GAA convention takes place tonight.

The convention will take place remotely via MS Teams, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and begins at 7.30pm. Each club is entitled to have two delegates in attendance, plus their county board representative for the year. 

In his secretary’s address, Sean Og McAteer focuses on key issues such as the fact planning permission has been lodged for the proposed development at Ballykinlar.

“This is an exciting project, and hopefully will allow us to have a home we can call our own. A project board will be established,” he says.

He thanks all who have worked with him in his five years as secretary, especially the clubs, and also touches on the difficulties that the year have brought, describing 2020 as a “year like no other”.

He goes on: “It was a year that turned in a way that we could never have imagined happening.

“It was a year when people were asked to become someone that we inherently are not. The GAA, the heart of the Irish nation, as man, woman and child, we played our part. Our actions saved lives, we were more than just a sporting organisation.

“We were there for people of all creeds and colours. The GAA is a family and in 2020, it grew an extended family, as GAA members were frontline workers. They were community champions as we brought care and hope to many in times of crisis and fear.”

Mr McAteer also focuses on just a few of the many people who have come together to help their communities.

He says that whilst things have been very different this year, Down GAA could be proud of how it adapted to a vastly-changed landscape for everyone.

“It was a different world in 2020 across the globe, and in our little corner of that big world, Down GAA was indeed different, but also good. We managed to get back onto the playing fields when at  a stage it looked as if in 2020 all we would have would be memories. 

“We worked hard to get back playing too and to ensure that the people watching were safe, both those playing and those watching.”

He also acknowledges that despite the triumph in adversity, there were tragedies for many this year.

He says: “We think of those who were taken from us in this pandemic. The hurt and pain their loved ones have endured must not be forgotten. 

“In a time when we could not have wakes or funerals in the accustomed manner, we live now in the hope that 2021 will be better and that, please God, a vaccine will be available in the early part of the year.”

Mr McAteer took the time too to thank those who have been of service to Down away from the pitch. “To the team off the field, I thank you for all your support and co-operation in the past year. We did not meet in person since March, and it was a very difficult year for county officers. 

“This was frustrating for many of our officers, sub-committees could not really meet, Ulster and national bodies were now heading towards meeting online, so it was one of those years when you can’t really do what you want to do.

“We hope 2021 will be different, at least we should be differently prepared and in the early part of the year, Microsoft Teams will be the way forward. Each officer and their committee, need to embrace it in the knowledge things will change before the year’s end and the show must go on.”

He also acknowledged the difficulties that the furlough scheme which was implemented earlier this year had on the Down GAA staff.

“In March we had to place everyone on leave, whilst I myself was put on a reduced salary. Our staff have been good, loyal people to Down GAA and at all times we have kept them informed at every stage. 

“There are teams of people who work very hard for Down GAA off the field. In particular this year, Gary Doherty was, quietly, a great support to clubs and individuals who needed support from him in his role as Health and Well Being Officer. 

“It is an unseen role, but a most valuable role and when people were feeling the effects of the pandemic, Gary was on the end of a phone or was there in person. Down GAA is, I always say, a family and when a member of that family is in difficulty, we always try to be there, often unseen and that is how it should be.”

Mr McAteer says the future is bright for Gaelic Games in Down.

“I am ending my address on an optimistic note. We have our two senior county teams playing now in a higher division in 2021. 

“We will have our minor teams playing in their respective championships in the next number of weeks, and we would be optimistic for their fortunes.

“The wheel will turn, and our day will come again, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

“Working together, the Down brand is a powerful brand. All stakeholders are moving in one direction and that is key to success both on and off the field.

“In 2021, let that vision happen, let our team taste success, and let our dream of Ballykinlar become a reality.”