Secretary's Address to Club AGM - 10 December 2011

2011 has been another year of Aodh Ruadh building for the future, both on and off the pitch. On the pitch we are gaining strength in hurling, ladies and football, mainly at underage level, although the reserve footballers did claim a richly deserved league and championship double. Off the field we are slowly getting a handle on the substantial financial problems which ware facing the club. We are some distance from getting them under control, but there seems to be a greater appreciation of the magnitude of the task facing us.

On The Playing Field
Senior Football It has been a year of bringing through our youth in Aodh Ruadh. An omen of that transition came with Peter Boyle making his senior debut for Donegal in the McKenna cup in early January. At club level, Division three football has seen more young players getting sustained game time. Ronan McGurrin and Conor Patton, Donegal minor panellists this year, are just two of the more obvious examples of that policy. It's an approach which is bearing fruit, although just how ripe that fruit is we will only know when division three concludes. However with the seniors contesting at the right end of the league this year, the signs are hopeful. The championship saw Aodh Ruadh come face to face with the side that relegated us from division two last year, Fanad Gaels. Two home wins saw the tie go to the third game where, in an epic encounter at Convoy Aodh Ruadh shaded the game by a single point. It was a different story in the quarter-final where we met a Saint Naul's team on a mission and lost over two legs.

The reserves had a phenomenal year, winning every game they played bar a second leg championship defeat against Saint Naul's. The Mountcharles men took the third game to extra-time before Aodh Ruadh finally finished the game out to book a place in the semi-final. That game was won and the final against Carndonagh is eagerly anticipated by all in the club.

It has been a long year, but more rewarding than 2011. The development of a number young players in senior players of quality has been a pleasing aspect of the season. Great credit has to go to Val Murray, Barry Ward, Donagh Keon and Stephen Ward for their work with seniors and reserves this year.

Underage Football.
Another busy year at underage for Ballyshannon, and one where we continued to make progress.

Once again Barry Ward took our minors. He built on his fine work of 2010 in the league. After an opening day hiccup against Saint John's Aodh Ruadh went undefeated in their section to book a place in the regional league final against Ardara. The first game was abandoned in apocalyptic weather conditions. The refixture saw Ardara get a first half edge which they were able to hold to the end. The championship saw Aodh Ruadh drawn against Kilcar. Kilcar won in Ballyshannon, but while Aodh Ruadh gave a much improved performance in Towney they were unable to get the win that would take the tie to a third game.

Shane Ward and Greg Sweeney were back in charge of the under 16s for 2011. The team lost their first game of the year away to Dungloe in atrocious conditions. But after that they were a serious proposition for any side. They won the seven remaining games in their league programme and gained revenge over Dungloe for that opening day defeat with victory in the divisional final. Buncrana defeated Ballyshannon in the league semi-final, but it was to prove the lads last loss of the year. The southern championship crown was won after a replay against Naomh Mhuire, but their finest display of the year came in the county semi-final. There they oozed class as the beat Buncrana by 1-15 to 2-5. A 2-18 to 1-5 victory in the county final over Naomh Mhuire was the cherry on top of a great season. That season is still ongoing however. After defeating Cavan's Ramor United in the first round of the Ulster under 16 club championship, they now await news of their opponents in the Ulster semi-final.

The under 15 Óg sport team did well in the first blitz of the season, but were deprived of the opportunity to test themselves any further by Southern Minor Board intransigence and failure to recognise the particular issues which face dual clubs.

Aodh Ruadh continue to be very competitive at under 14. Jim Kane steered the lads to another Southern Regional final where they faced Naomh Conaill. When the sides met in the league there had been two home wins, but in the final everything clicked for Naomh Conaill and they were convincing winners.

Sylvester Maguire and Jim Kane's under 13s had a plenty of fun this season with plenty of action packed games. Anyone following them certainly got value for money as they liked to give their opponents a good head start, but never knew when they were beat.

At under 10 Paddy Kelly's sides had a busy year with blitzes across the division and large numbers showing a great appetite for the game at this level. Our under 6 and under 8 teams continue to do great work in introducing our youngest members to the game.

Ladies Football
Aodh Ruadh had been trying to win the intermediate title for three years. When that was finally claimed last year there was understandable elation. This was Aodh Ruadh's first year in senior football, but a number of players were unavailable to the panel this year through one thing and another. Taking that into account the girls acquitted themselves quite well. We lost in the county championship semi-final to Four Masters. We won two, drew one and lost five in the league, but fared better in the 13-a-side league, which doesn't feature county players and won three out of eight.

With such a young senior team we had no minors, but Dearbhaile McNeill played on the county minor side which went to the Ulster final only to be defeated by Tyrone

The under 16s had a trained well this year and won two games in their five game league programme. Maeve Liston, one of the stars of that team, also featured on the county under 16 team.

Our under 14s were probably the high point of the season. They reached the B county final. They delivered a good display on the evening, but lost to a stronger and more experienced Urris team.

The under 12s got a good grounding in the skills of the game and took part in three Go Games blitzes.

Our under 10s gave some of our youngsters players their first experience of playing in an Aodh Ruadh jersey. We hosted a blitz with Four Masters and Erne Gaels, the Belleek side emerging victorious.

Elsewhere club man Terence McShea continues to rise through the ranks of the Ladies referees, taking charge of a number of high profile games over the past season and umpiring on All-Ireland ladies final day in Croke Park.

Hurling
Aodh Ruadh didn't field a senior hurling team in 2011, but the activity and success enjoyed at underage mean the small ball continues to thrive on the banks of the Erne.

The under 8s were managed by Pauric Keenaghan and Dennis Daly. They took part in every monthly county blitz from April to September, as well as blitzes in Fermanagh.

Our under 10s, managed by Eddie Lynch and Chris Kelly, were very enthusiastic and improved greatly as the year went on. They took part in all the blitzes organised by the County Board and also travelled to Fermanagh for a number of challenges

The under 12s were managed by Michael Ayres and Kevin McDermott. They had a very busy year playing ten games in the Donegal League finishing fifth. They also travelled to Ballycastle with the under 14s and had a great game with the host club. They finished their year off playing in our annual Aodh O Dálaigh under 12 tournament.

Our under 14s were managed by John Rooney and Peter Horan. This squad had a very busy year competing in the Donegal and Fermanagh leagues. They came up against a very strong Buncrana team in a number of finals this year. We qualified for the Féile na nGael final but lost out to our Inishowen rivals. There were also losses to Buncrana in the league semi-final and in the county championship final. The pain of those losses was eased by a magnificent Fermanagh league final win over old rivals, Lisbellaw. The team also took part in the Ulster Féile and had two good wins before losing out in the semi-final to eventual winners Newry Shamrocks. They finished off the year travelling to Ballycastle where they defeated Glenshesk and lost to Ballycastle.

The under 16s were managed by Peter Horan and John Rooney. This very young panel are still in action as we go to print. They competed in the Fermanagh and Donegal Leagues, They qualified for the Fermangh final and lost out by 4 points in a brilliant game to Lisbellaw. The next big lift for the lads was the winning of the Alan Ryan/Seamus Grimes tournament. In the Donegal Championship they put on a brilliant performance in the final in MacCumhaill Park to win convincingly 3-11 to 0-3. As we go to print the league final against Burt is the last outstanding fixture of the season.

Our minors, managed by Kevin Loughlin, Stephen Sheerin and Pat Faherty took part in the Fermangh and Donegal Leagues. They fell short against Lisbellaw in the Fermanagh league final by a few points. In the Donegal League they met Burt in the final, but a powerful display led by County Senior Ronan McDermott saw the Inishowen men triumph. In the championship they suffered a disappointing defeat to St Eunan's.

Other highlights were the successful running of the fifth annual Hurl-a-thon; the staging of the inaugural under 15 inter-county tournament in memory of the late Peter O'Keefe which was won by a Donegal side captained by Aodh Ruadh's Jamie Brennan; Holy Family defeating Creevy in the County National school nine-a-side final. Our standing in underage hurling in the county was reflected in the amount of players we had on the development squads. These included

Under 12: Barry Kelly, Ryan Ayres, Conal Sweeney, Stephen Anderson, Brian McHenry.
Under 13: Cian Duffy, Kieran Daly, Oisín Rooney, Shane McGrath, Garrett Sheerin, Caolan Drummond.
Under 14: Eugene Drummond, Paul Cummins, Conor Kennedy, Deva Ayres, Kieran Kelly.
Under 15: Colm Kelly, Jamie Brennan, Eddie Lynch, Niall Harley, Ciaran Rami. Managed by John Rooney, Peter Horan and John O'Loughlin selectors.
Under 16: Tommy Gillespie, Eamon McGrath, Owen O'Donnell and Aaron Breslin.
Under 18: Pat Faherty, Rory Cullen, Aaron Fannon, Conor McNeely, Thomas Anderson.

Off the pitch
The year started with our annual Dinner Dance and awards in February where we honoured the county championship winning sides of 1986 and 1987. Father Tierney Park successfully hosted a Donegal National League match, with the homesters taking two points off Antrim. That was just one of a large number of inter-county fixtures which took place in Ballyshannon across the year. We were also able to host the local heats of the community games, not to mention numerous schools games. March opened with the Cyclothon, a great fund-raiser by the ladies. Indeed there has been a big step up in the amount of fund-raising done by the club this year. Earlier in the year there had been an interactive quiz, a beer tasting night and various bag packs. The Cyclothon was followed by our annual Hurlathon, now one of the club's best fund-raisers. The club also had its usual prominent presence in the town's Saint Patrick's day parade. April opened with the annual Ladies Duck Race at McKenna's brook, a great afternoon's craic as always. In July we had our 19th annual GAA summer camp with numbers as high as ever. In August we once again hosted the VW camper vans of the Eireball Run as they took a break on their week long charity fund-raising tour of the country. That was the same day we got a flying visit from the BBC as they filmed for their All-Ireland semi-final build-up. Also in August our young hurlers made their annual pilgrimage to the All-Ireland semi-final and Bord na nÓg ran their pig races in the Port. The last two fund-raisers of the year were spectacular. Scrap Saturday proved so successful it had to be extended twice, while Strictly Ballyshannon pulled a colossal crowd into the Great Northern where they were treated to some top quality moving and grooving.

We might have enjoyed modest success on the playing field, but as a vibrant, living club, part of the social capital of Ballyshannon, it has been another extremely successful year. I'll wrap up by thanking everyone who contributed to the club in any capacity this year.

Mise le meas,

Eoin O hAodha
Runai

Last modified: Tuesday, 1 January 2013 at 6:48pm