By Eamonn Kelly
Mayo-born Sean Gannon of Cleveland was reelected for a second term as chairman of the Gaelic Athletic Association’s North American County Board following a run-off with Donegal-man John McDevitt, current chairman of the Boston-based Northeast Divisional Board.
In one of the smallest conventions in recent years less than 100 members representing just 47 of the 85 registered clubs gathered at the Holiday Inn in downtown Buffalo, N.Y., last weekend. While three of the 10 divisions (Northwest, Southern California and Denver) had no representation, five Youth Boards from across the country were in attendance. Most surprising was that only a little over half of the Northeast Division clubs were represented while there was 100 percent representation from the Central (Chicago) Division. Several delegates expressed concern that there was no representative present from the Southern California division given that San Diego is the host city for next year’s NACB Championship playoffs.
Similar to the 1999 convention in Atlanta, just half of the positions on the board required ballots this year. In addition to the chairmanship, voting was required for the positions of secretary, registrar and Youth officer. In the most closely contested race, that of chairman, only nine votes separated the two contestants.
Since the incumbent secretary, Celia Lynn-Hawkins (Chicago), and nominees John Keane (Seattle) and Bridie Joyce (Boston) were not in attendance, nominations were taken from the floor. After one ballot Connie Kelly (Boston) was elected over Jim Carmody (Washington, D.C.) and Hugh Duggan (San Francisco).
The office of treasurer also had to be decided with nominations from the floor since incumbent treasurer, Mike O’Connor from Boston, declined reelection and other nominees, John Keane and Tom Purvis (Philadelphia) were not present. Of the three nominees selected from the floor, Michael Coyne (Boston) and Paddy Rooney (Philadelphia) rejected the nomination, while Danny O’Donnell (Chicago) accepted to become the new treasurer of the board.
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In an all-San Francisco run for registrar, Chris Knightly retained the position with a victory over Hugh Duggan. For the position of youth officer, after incumbent John O’Flynn of San Francisco withdrew from reelection, Tim Flanagan (Buffalo) defeated Joe Begley (Chicago) in a runoff to become the new youth officer. No voting was required for the positions of vice chairman, PRO and honory president with Tom Dolan (Chicago), Eamonn Kelly, (Chicago) and Martin Keane (Boston) respectively, being reelected without opposition.
Following is the complete board of officers for 2001:
Chairman, Sean Gannon (Cleveland); vice chairman, Tommy Dolan (Chicago); secretary, Connie Kelly (Boston); treasurer, Danny O’Donnell (Chicago); registrar, Chris Knightly (San Francisco); public relations, Eamonn Kelly (Chicago); youth officer, Tim Flanagan (Buffalo); honorary president, Martin Keane (Boston).
After the election of officers, Sean Gannon thanked all the delegates and members for their attendance at the convention. The chairman congratulated the divisional boards across the country for their contribution towards another tremendously successful season. In particular, he thanked the Northeast Division, under the chairmanship of John McDevitt and the Boston Irish Cultural Center, for their superb handling of the national playoffs at the Center in Canton Mass., over the Labor Day weekend.
The board also paid tribute to Michael Dermody, chairman of the Atlanta Division for his dedication, time and expertise in reactivating and restructuring the boards Internet web site (www.nagaa.org) and for his ongoing support to the PRO in the process of updating the site on a regular basis.
Nineteen motions were submitted to the convention, of which eight were either withdrawn or deemed out of order. The motions that commanded the most interest and generated long discussions were those pertaining to registration of home-based and sanction players. A motion by the Philadelphia Tyrone football club that "a sanction shall not be granted later than June 20 in any given year" failed because it did not receive the required two-thirds majority vote. Several other motions that were attempting to change the rule 7B that permits only "three sanction football players from Ireland on the field at one time" to five or seven sanction players on the field at one time but they could not muster a two-thirds majority. Many delegates, particularly from the Philadelphia division, made strong appeals for a rule change as they talked about a serious decline in the registration of home-based players and the elimination of three clubs in as many years. Arguments against the motions came primarily from the Northeast and Western divisions, where delegates felt that a rule permitting more than three sanction players on the field at one time would not help the promotion of the game among home-based and young local players coming up through the youth programs.
Long discussions evolved around motions requesting permission for a limited number of J1 visa students be allowed to register as home-based players for junior football competition. Motions submitted by the Chicago Wolfe Tones club requested that from three to five J1 visa students be allowed to register as home-based players for junior football competition only with a registration deadline of June 10. While several clubs favored these motions, stating that there were hundreds of Irish students in various American Board cities this summer anxious to play football but were denied the opportunity because of existing rules. Those against the motions argued that allowing these students to register as home based junior players would "leave the door open" for widespread abuse of the home base rule.
The motions which required a recount were narrowly defeated in not getting the required two-thirds majority.
Unlike previous years, very few motions were submitted regarding changes to the national playoffs. The most significant, which passed, was submitted by the Detroit St. Ann’s ladies football clu,b which stated that "any team who plays a player in a NACB playoff game who is later determined to be an illegal player shall be suspended from the remainder of the playoffs and shall be fined $500 per illegal player." The same club was successful with their motion that suggested that "any team who wins the ladies junior division championship for two consecutive years must move to the senior division."
In an attempted to reduce the hectic schedule of the national playoffs, a motion from Chicago St. Brendan’s club suggested that "no team should have to play a quarterfinal on the playoff weekend. They should play meet before that weekend." That motion was defeated.
In a rather unprecedented move by the board motions were excepted from cities to host the national playoffs through 2004. Traditionally, convention usually selects a host playoff city for just the following year but due to motions that were submitted at this year’s convention the board has approved arrangements through 2004. In addition to the earlier selection of San Diego as the host city for the 2001 games the board announced that the 2002 playoffs will be staged in Philadelphia, San Francisco in 2003 and Boston in 2004.
Next year’s convention is scheduled for Boston on the second weekend in November.