Stephen Barker was elected as the 32nd Derry GAA Chairman. (Pic: Mary K Burke)
Moneymore man Stephen Barker was elected as the 32nd Chairman of Derry GAA, at Monday's AGM in Owenbeg.
Barker, who previously held the post of Vice Chairman, takes over from the outgoing Brian Smith who served his five years in the chair.
Former Chairman John Keenan was also nominated for a return to the hot-seat but opted not to let his name go forward.
Keenan addressed the floor, explaining that, while he was honoured to have been asked to lead the county again, he endorsed Barker as a suitable candidate.
In his address, Barker thanked his club Moneymore for his grounding in administration, where he became Secretary at the age of 20 and after five years he had a similar stint as Chairman.
“I am looking forward to taking Derry in a new direction in 2020,” he said.
He told club delegates in attendance that he wished for his tenure not to 'be about me' but about the county.
Barker confirmed that he has already set the wheels in motion for an in-depth review of Derry GAA, under the guidance of high ranking Ulster GAA Official and former Ballinderry Chairman Stephen McGeehan.
It is based around – as Barker outlined - where he currently sits, where it needs to go and how it will get here. The findings of the review are due to be fed back early in 2020.
With Barker moving up the ladder, former All-Ireland winning defender Kieran McKeever was elected unopposed as Vice Chairman.
McKeever was last year tasked by the now defunct Advisory Committee to brainstorm ideas at a well-attended meeting of 'football people' on the direction they feel the county needed to take.
The Dungiven man is the first of four new faces now in office.
At last year's AGM, no Treasurer was elected and when Michael Hasson was co-opted at a later stage, he stood down before the end of his tenure.
Liam Peoples, who previously held the post, was nominated this year but didn't stand. There was a vote between the other two candidates with Ogra Colmcille's Martin Devlin elected ahead of Limavady man Mark Gannon.
Patsy Mullan didn't wish to seek re-election as Coaching Officer. Karl Diamond was nominated but didn't stand.
Hugh McGrath and Bobby Farren, who stood against Brian Smith for the chair last year, were the other nominations.
Foreglen delegate Noel McFeely asked the floor if McGrath's position as Logistics Manager with the county teams was a 'conflict of interests'.
In a show of hands, called by Brian Smith who oversaw the election of officers, both names were put forward with Farren winning by one vote, 45-44.
Outgoing PRO Conor Nicholl didn't seek a return and Lissan's Ciaran McRory was elected, as was Paul Birt to the new post of Assistant Treasurer.
Following the election of officers, the proposed motions/recommendations were discussed. However, with a query raised from the floor that none of the listed suggestions from clubs had been cross-referenced with the GAA's Official Guide, they could only be put forward as recommendations.
Ballinderry were calling for adult club players to be guaranteed 'a minimum of two' championship games in the year.
Pat McGuckin spoke on the issue citing the level of preparation that goes in at club level and that players deserve the same chances as inter-county players.
Newbridge delegate Seamus McNeill also touched on the issue but suggested that until the CCCC in Croke Park give clubs a better window for championship games, there was very little counties could do.
Stephen Barker, who also sits on the fixtures taskforce in Croke Park, highlighted that there are moves to condense the inter-county season further.
In terms of the club championships, Barker stated that the CCC are pondering over three options – a championship based on groups, a return to the 'backdoor' model and retaining the knock-out format.
Loup called for senior leagues to revert to 16 teams. Games Administrator Breige O'Neill pointed out that unless clubs were prepared to play without county players, then the situation was unlikely to change.
While Barker stressed that league sizes would remain, the CCC are exploring a system that will give players more league games. The possibility of a split after 11 rounds, with the top and bottom half splitting off - a system currently implemented in Antrim. It would give an additional five matches to decide relegation, promotion and league titles.
Slaughtneil outlined a recommendation for the club championships, football and hurling, to be played off over a 12 week period, with a game every three weeks to allow dual clubs adequate time for 'structured training'.
With winners needed for the Ulster competitions in October, this format would require the championship to roll out in mid-July. New Slaughtneil Chairman Sean McGuigan, stated that he was happy to wait on the outcome of the CCC's proposals.
Earlier in the meeting, a financial report - audited by ASM Chartered Accountants - was delivered by Central Council Delegate Danny Scullion, as a result of no official treasurer being appointed after Michael Hasson stepped down during the year.
The report outlined an operating surplus of £77,426 for the year and in his address, outgoing Chairman Brian Smith referenced 'unnecessary speculation' that the county were in financial difficulties.
The gate receipts for 2019 totaled £219,858, a figure which increased almost £40,000 from the previous year.
Another significant change related to team expenses. The total came to £561,515 with an increase of just over £77,000 since 2018. Within the breakdown, there was an increase of £65,153 for 'teams' administration expenses' from 2018.
In explanation of the increase, Danny Scullion highlighted that two members of the senior hurling management team are travelling from Dublin and there was an increase in number on football management teams. With the costs involved, Scullion stated that the situation 'needs monitored' in future.
It is predicted that the loan currently taken out to cover the cost of development at Owenbeg is due to be paid off by next summer.
Derry GAA Executive Committee 2020
Chairperson: Stephen Barker elected unopposed, after John Keenan withdrew.
Vice -Chairperson: Kieran McKeever elected unopposed.
Secretary: Sean Keane returned unopposed.
Assistant Secretary: Ryan Diamond returned unopposed.
Treasurer: Martin Devlin elected ahead of Mark Gannon on a vote of 61-28. Liam Peoples withdrew.
Assistant Treasurer: Paul Birt elected unopposed.
PRO: Ciaran McRory elected unopposed.
Coaching Officer: Bobby Farren elected ahead of Hugh McGrath on a vote of 45-44. Karl Diamond withdrew.
Cultural Officer: Una Ferguson returned unopposed.
Ulster Council Delegates (2): Kieran McKeever and John Keenan elected unopposed. Mark Gannon and Stephen Barker withdrew.
Central Council Delegate: Danny Scullion returned unopposed.
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