Last Monday (2nd February), a delegation of members from St Mary’s GAC, Ahoghill travelled to Croke Park to attend the AIB Club of the Year Awards as representatives from Co. Antrim having being awarded that title a few weeks previously.
Danny O’Neill - Club Chairman and Eddie Hardy - Club chairman during 2003 (and the previous 6 years) both agreed this was indeed a major honour for the club, its first win in the competition.
St Mary’s GAC, Ahoghill, who field a Junior Hurling Team, Intermediate Football Team and a Senior Camogie Team have been working tirelessly over the past five years in developing the club and it’s links with the local schools and community.
In 2003, this work culminated in the opening of state of the art facilities, ground improvements, pitch improvement and initial work on a new second / training pitch. St. Mary’s have also invested in the long-term future of the club in recent years, by promoting coaching and increasing the number and level of coaches within the club. They have also developed innovative ways of fundraising, a key management issue for every club.
The development of a professionally designed website was also a major factor in becoming the AIB Antrim Club of the Year.
Club representatives from each county winner attended the presentation that was held in the new Hogan Stand hospitality suite in Croke Park. Each club, as their county winner were awarded a €2000 cheque and were entered into their provincial section. The Malin club from Donegal were awarded the Ulster Club of the Year, while St Jude’s of Dublin were selected as the Leinster and All Ireland Club of the Year.
GAA President Mr. Sean Kelly remarked in his keynote speech the vital role played by clubs in the development of the GAA, and also in the development of local communities all over Ireland. He said that the AIB backed scheme had been developed to give due recognition to that role and the continuing importance of the club.
The AIB Banner line for the AIB Club of the Year awards is ‘Anything is Possible’. This is certainly true when a small club in Country Antrim can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the largest GAA clubs in Ireland, as an equal and be acknowledged as making a difference in their community. As the saying goes, ’You don’t choose your club, you inherit it’.
The Chairman and present committee would like to extend their sincere thanks to all members of the club who give up their time willingly, and work in the pursuit of improving and developing the Club.
A special thanks is extended to Eddie Hardy and Nigel Lynn who stepped down from the positions of Club Chairman and Secretary at the recent AGM after many years of dedicated service.
The club will not rest on its laurels for 2004.