26 Jan 2009 - Banner Ladies Club - Secretary's Report 2009 AGM

February and March were very difficult months, as not alone was our integrity as a club questioned, but also some personal bonds and friendships, which we as committee members had developed through a number of years working together, were also put under pressure.
I am glad that at year’s end we can feel vindicated as a club. Though not exactly through choice, we now and for the past year or so, find ourselves exclusive of the Banner GAA Club.
I am proud this evening as club secretary that every member of our Banner Ladies Football club played their part in delivering the results that we hoped for last February/March.
In 2008 we won the Clare Senior League and Clare Senior Championship for the first time. Our esteemed thanks as a club should go out to Joe Reidy and his fellow selectors and to team trainer Gerry Kane for delivering this honour to the club. To win the Senior League and Championship was a dream come true for the more established and founding members of the club. But our 2008 Senior Panel did not rest their laurels there. They also secured for the Banner Ladies Club the 2008 Clare Eleven-A-Side Championship and the Runners Up Title in the All Ireland Club Seven’s Shield Championship. Senior team player Louise Henchy had the honour of leading Clare to the Division Two Suzuki National League Title and also led Clare to the Munster Intermediate Championship as well as captaining her county in the All Ireland Intermediate Football Final in Croke Park.
It is often said that a chain is as strong as its weakest link and in football terms this is often translated that a club is as strong as its Under 10’s or U 12’s grades. We are at present privileged in the club to have an excellent group of enthusiastic young footballers at this age group. Our U12’s performance in this year’s Clare Championship Final was immense and such was their endeavour, talent and enthusiasm on the day that we could afford to end the game with a totally different thirteen players than that which started the match. That nine of the original starting thirteen are again underage for the coming year bodes well for the future and I earnestly hope that these girls will continue to play and enjoy our game of Ladies Gaelic Football and that they will also continue to enjoy their time with the Banner Ladies Football Club. Captain for our U12 team in 2008 was Aisling Cahill.
Our U-14 team again proved its merit by winning the Clare Féile Championship. Our U-14 girls went on to represent both our Club and Clare with pride in the All Ireland Féile Final’s in Cavan and although defeated they returned home with their heads held high such was their endeavours. Captain of this year’s U-14 team was Shauna Crowley.
At U-16 level we were expected to do well this year in Clare as our All Ireland U-14 Féile winners in 2006 were now at this level. True to form our girls did not disappoint in winning the Clare championship. Captain of our U16 club team in 2008 was Naomi Carroll.
Most,if not all, of our U16 side played a huge part in regaining the Clare Minor Championship title for our Club. Great rivals Miltown had deservedly won this accolade for the past three years but this year we strove to regain this coveted title. That we succeeded in our quest was a great end of season honour for the club and for minor team captain Jackie Woods.
I wish to congratulate all our teams in their endeavours in 2008 and in doing so also wish to compliment and congratulate their mentors. At U-12 level the club and the players owe a huge debt to the efforts of Alan Copley, Kathleen O’Brien and Mary Talty. At U-14’s to Padraic Dolan, Michael Culligan, Laura Brennan and Sinéad Hallissey. For the U-16’s and Minors JJ O’Dea, Margaret Carroll, Michael McInerney and John Geraghty must be thanked and at senior level Joe Reidy, Patricia Ryan, Gerry Keane and Pat Crotty deserve our appreciation. Everybody of the above assisted in making 2008 a most successful year for the Banner Ladies Football Club.
A club cannot be successful on the field of play however without a well organised and structured backroom team. In my position as Club Secretary I have been privileged to work with some of the most dedicated and diligent people one could find. Without excluding anybody I wish to mention in particular our Club Treasurer Bernie Brennan and our Club Registrar Maura Cavanagh. The work, enthusiasm and accountability these two ladies have put into our club over the past number of years has been incredible and while many of us gain accolades for our front of house roles the endeavours of some of our backroom people are sometimes not acknowledged adequately.
All of us here are acutely aware of the current financial difficulties facing the country at large. The Banner Ladies Football Club is not immune to these difficulties and the coming year will pose us many challenges in this regard. As our treasurer Bernie will outline we have managed our club finances with the utmost prudence and have achieved a healthy end of year balance despite the unprecedented levels of club activities during 2008. We must continue to generate income during the coming year as participation in events and competitions such as the Féile, the All Ireland Club Sevens and the Clare Senior Championship does not occur without a significant financial cost. Accommodation, transport and food are particularly major expenses in this regard. Participation in these events is essential for our continued development as a club. Members support for fundraising events such as our club card draw and Ennis Town Flag day will be more vital than ever in the year ahead and I especially appeal to all our senior players to be supportive of such initiatives in the coming year. We must also attempt to cultivate further sponsorship for our club activities and in this regard I want to thank Supermacs of Ennis who have been loyal and generous supporters of the Banner Ladies Football Club for a number of years now. Hopefully this relationship will continue and prosper in 2009. I also want to acknowledge the generosity of Gerry Lynch and Blue Ten Properties for sponsoring a set of training tops for our senior squad this year. In my capacity as Club PRO I want to thank our local media for profiling our sport and club during the year. Much more needs to be done in this area however as ladies football still lags behind other sports in terms of media attention. I was particularly disappointed with the coverage given to our Clare Senior Championship final win but on the other hand I was delighted with the Clare People’s coverage of our medal’s presentation night. As I stated at the outset, 2008 started with tremendous difficulties for the club. Of major assistance to us in overcoming these difficulties was the co-operation and generosity of the Ennis National School and school principal Gary Stack and also the Ennis Town Council for the use of its magnificent facilities in Lees Road. For the first time in a number of years we were able to complete our full programme of home games at home and indeed in a reversal of previous years played some away games at home also when other clubs had no pitch available to them during periods of high GAA activity or inclement weather. Having an all weather facility at our disposal also meant that our training schedule went on uninterrupted when many pitches throughout the county were unplayable. Naturally there were some teething difficulties in respect of pitch access for all our teams early on but as the season progressed I feel all our needs were more than adequately met. In 2008 club teams played nearly seventy matches in all competitions from U-10 to Seniors and this was a huge achievement in itself. I want to pay tribute to all the hardworking officers and committee members involved in the club and none more so than chairman Pat O’Driscoll. I know how proud Pat is of our club achievements in 2008 and how especially thrilled he was when we won our first senior trophy with the senior league win in May. Pat has given years of unbroken service to the girls and ladies of our club and it was truly fitting that we should finally win senior honours during his term of leadership. In looking to the future hopefully we can build on our senior success of 2008 and aspire to honours beyond the county. Hopefully a Munster title at least and possibly even more is not beyond our capability as a club. An All Ireland Club Sevens title is also achievable for our senior side and as always our U-14’s will be there or thereabouts in attempting to win a second All Ireland title at this level. More parental support is necessary to assist with teams and also I would appeal to our more senior players to consider taking a role in mentoring and coaching our underage girls.

With regard to our relationship with the Banner GAA Club I have to say that it is my considered opinion that a resolution of current issues does not appear to be a feasible proposition in the immediate future. The integrity of The Banner Ladies Football Club club, its mentors and above all its playing members dictate this opinion. Our Ladies Football Club door is always open to meaningful discussions with the Banner GAA Club but our Ladies Football Club committee will not be party to any repeat of the attempted humiliation and bullying that was inflicted on us in early 2008. On a personal level I have now been the Banner Ladies Football Club secretary for the past five years. The position of secretary is a pivotal position in any club and as such should not be in the sole occupancy of any individual for too long a period. I feel the time is now right for a change in this position in our club so that fresh ideas and fresh momentum can be brought to bear. Hopefully such an individual will emerge from this evening’s proceedings.