The Annual General Meeting of Westport United took place recently and it was a historical meeting in a huge sense since it was the first one to be held in a virtual environment, conducted through the Zoom Meeting platform and it was well attended.
The meeting was opened with a minute's silence for all the deceased club members over the previous year followed by the adoption of the minutes of the previous AGM and the SGM held before Christmas to ratify the revised Club Constitution.
In his Chairman's Address, Stephen Duffy opened by focusing on the impact that COVID-19 had on the club, saying
This past year 2020, has been a year that has affected every single person in the world. In how they carry out their day-to-day existence, due to the presence of the Covid-19 pandemic. We as a football club, have been presented with countless problems since last March with regards to daily activities. With guidance from the FAI, Connacht FA, Mayo Football League, Mayo Youths and The Women’s League we have been able to implement a set of procedures for each member to follow, in order to take part in the game we love, in a safe and healthy manner. I would like to thank these sporting bodies for their continued help and support. I would also like to thank our club’s 2 COVID-19 coordinators Joe Kelly and Victoria Large for their tireless work in maintaining that all procedures were followed. That all of our teams had a Covid-19 compliance office who recorded attendance. Cleaned down footballs and equipment before and after each training session and match. Ensuring that we had hand sanitisers and signage erected at each of our football grounds for the members and patrons to avail of. Finally, I would like to thank our committee, coaches, players, parents and patrons, for their continued support and patience in these unprecedented times and with the help of god, 2021 will see the return of competitive football as we know it. Last summer, Westport United signed a deal with Jako as the official Club Kit Supplier and after outlining the benefits of the deal, he went on to say
I would like to thank Nicky and Barbara from Jako, for their professionalism and excellent service. It was always a joy to deal with them. A special thanks goes to our own John Casey, who is our clubs point of contact with Jako. John put in a tremendous amount of work in to the preliminary negotiations with each of the 3 companies and since signing with Jako, John continues to be in contact with them ensuring everything runs smoothly. The maintenance and upkeep of United Park is vital to the efficient running of a football club and that's in no doubt down to the important work implemented by the Community Employment Schemes. Touching on this, Stephen Duffy said
During the year Brian Cusack approached me about the possibility of getting the services of a person in United Park through the Community Employment Schemes. Brian subsequently had meetings with a number of supervisors of these schemes. Their role is to look after people who are out of work and enrol them around the community on 19 hours per week schemes. Then from July to October Brian didn’t get one person on a scheme, but four. At United Park we now have Michael McHale and Stephen Whelan who are responsible for the groundworks. David McCallum who is responsible for admin work and Dave Ryan for clubhouse maintenance. Brian also got talking to Mark Reid from the Rural Social Scheme the supervisor for Pat Grady and Michael Cusack, who work at the Sports Park. Mark agreed to let the lads cut the pitch for us. When we decided to replace the perimeter fence at the Sports Park due to rotten timber. The club purchased new timber and cement. Pat and Michael erected it for us. So! Brian, please take a bow, with your clever thinking the club is now in a great position going forward. I would also like to thank Donal Fahy for the excellent work he has done for the club while he was on the scheme, in both United Park and the Sports Park. Finally, Brian Coffey who now marks the pitches at United Park and The Sports Park and does a top-class job at it. Despite 2020 being a tumultuous year on the pitch due to COVID-19, the club did record plenty of success on the pitch with Mr Duffy pointing out Looking back at last March, we as a Club were faced with the real possibility that we would have no football in 2020. So, it is with enormous thanks to the Sporting bodies, our coaches, players and parents, that we returned to competitive football in July. When the Mayo Youths committee decided to scrap the even age competitions for this season and tried to limit the number of teams to 2 per club for each of the U13, U15 and U17 leagues, we fought vigorously to change that decision, with the help of a few more clubs in Mayo, we managed to get them to reverse that decision. With a club the size of Westport United, with over 600 members, it was imperative for us that every man, woman and child got back playing competitive football where applicable in 2020. With the Academy, under the tutelage of Gerry Needham and all his wonderful coaches, all the boys and girls aged 6 – 9 trained in United Park on a Monday and Thursday evening. It was great to see them play a number of friendlies against other clubs around the county. With the Girls, we had 2 U13 teams, 1 U15 team, 1 U17 team and 1 U19 team. Well done to all the coaches and players on their respective seasons. I have to say, I had the pleasure in seeing a number of the teams playing in United Park, great credit goes to both the coaches and players on their brand of football. As a footnote, I would like to wish both Frank Harburn & Carmel Carroll the very best for the future. They both managed and coached the ladies U19 team and due to personal reasons, they are stepping down. Thank you so much for your dedication and support to the club. On the boy’s side of things, we had 2 U12 teams, who participated in a number of friendlies. We had 4 U13 teams, 4 U15 teams and 2 U17 teams. Again, I saw a lot of the teams in action. We truly are blessed with some enormous talent coming through in the club. On the Junior side of things, I think this is the first time in our club’s history that we had 3 competing teams in the Mayo Football League. With all the leagues yet to be played to a finish. It is great to see the A team sitting top of the league with 8 wins out of 8. The B team sitting 4th only 5 points off top spot and the C team in 2nd place, 1 point off the top, with a game in hand. Compliments to Kieran Mulchrone, Micheal Gibbons and Damien Gibbons for continuing to look after the B team, while the club continues to search for a Manager/ Coach to look after them. Also, Michael Horan and Richie O’Grady for looking after the C team who are really making waves in the Mayo League. A special mention has to go to the A team, for their terrific runs in both the Junior Cup & Connacht Cup. For the second season in a row, they managed to make the ¼ final of the Junior Cup, before going down 2-1 against Oliver Bond Celtic from Dublin. In the Connacht Cup, they got to the final, before losing 2- 1 to a very good Salthill Devon side. So well done to Mickey, Padraig, Chris, Richie, Brian and all the players. Although many avid supporters were unable to attend the matches, we were most fortunate to be able to provide live stream match coverage, by our very own PRO Kenneth Gannon, this was greatly appreciated by many supporters, including the opposition. Last but not least, the Masters team, who continue to brush every team aside winning both the league and the cup. Well done everybody.
Off the pitch during the pandemic certainly didn't mean that the club ceased to function as there was still plenty of activity ongoing behind the scenes and Stephen Duffy alluded to this by highlightingDuring the lockdowns there is still so much work that goes on behind the scenes. A lot of the time goes unnoticed. Here is just a sample of them: International Men’s health –Thanks to the Junior players who took part last June, with the Westport Family Resource Centre offering tips on mental health, which is so important now, especially with Covid-19. Thanks to the Westport Family Resource centre which also assisted in the project of branding the container at the Point, with many local youths volunteering including some of our U15s & U13s players. FAI Club Mark An award based on best practice in the governance, management and administration of a football club. Some of the aims of the Club Mark are to: Provide clubs with a road map, support clubs, reward clubs for achieving and maintaining high standards, provide recognition to clubs for their commitment and achievements and increase the club’s capacity to operate effectively and grow football in communities throughout Ireland. In order to be awarded the FAI Club mark, clubs have to show that they are in compliance with a number of criteria, namely: • Name of club and address. • Names of club officers. • Providing a copy of the club’s public liability insurance. • A copy of the minutes of a committee meeting and the last AGM minute. • Proof that our goalposts comply with safety guidelines. • That we have a certified coach and assistant coach with each team. • That all our players are registered on the FAI NET. • Name of Child Welfare Liaison Officer. • Proof that we ran a Parent Coach Education Workshop. • Proof that we are compliant with child welfare and garda vetting legalisation. • letters of support from affiliated leagues. • Copy of Club Constitution (ratified at SGM on Dec 15th). • Proof that we have a member with an up to date first aid cert. • That we have first aid kits at all training sessions and matches, etc. • Coaches/ volunteers database which includes Garda vetting, safeguarding, coaching qualifications details. I am happy to say that we have submitted all the relevant documentation and are hoping to hear back in early 2021, if we have been successful in our application. First Aid Course In early August, the club hosted first aid courses in the clubhouse at United Park, which was run by instructor Trevor Devlin. It was a 5-hour course, with a certificate on completion. Cost was €50 per person, with the club agreeing to cover 50% of the cost. Unfortunately, only 6 of our members took part in the course. In this day and age, it is becoming increasingly important that each team in the club has a coach with first aid experience. Therefore, when restrictions are lifted again, we will be hosting another course, and we will be insisting that each team in the club is represented. Truth be told it is an excellent course, only 5 hours long and will benefit everyone in their day-to-day life. Garda Vetting/ Safeguarding We are always on the lookout for new people to come into the club and help out on the coaching side of things. With all the protocols and regulations, every coach in a club has to be garda vetted and have the safeguarding course done. This is not up for debate and is compulsory. So, if anyone knows of a person interested in getting involved, please let us know and we will assist them in completing these 2 requirements before volunteering/ coaching commences. Games and coaching Committee At the end of 2019, the games and coaching committee which comprised of Paula Cannon, Frank Gillivan and Pat Foley decided to step down. I would like to thank them for their excellent work during the year. Filling this void, for the past year has been Maria Moran, Emma O’Toole and Jim Rocliffe. I would like to thank them sincerely for coming on board and lending their expertise to us. FAI Coach/ Parent workshop In early October, down at United Park Gerry Needham hosted a workshop for the coaches and parents of the Academy kids, including in the course outlined by the FAI: rationale for PDP changes, “player centred” approach, good practice behavioural models pertinent to players/ coaches / parents, codes of conduct. Attending the workshop with Gerry was Michael McGeough The Club’s Designated Liaison Person, Emma O’Toole The Club’s Children’s Officer and Joe Kelly The author of the club’s underage charter. So, thanks Gerry and everyone who took part. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we were limited in the amount of people who could take part but this will be an exercise, we will be looking to roll out on an annual basis with all underage groups.
The COVID-19 Pandemic certainly changed the landscape on the fundraising activities of the club with the fundraising activities going online due to the restrictions on gatherings and meetings with people outside their own household and some of the traditional fundraisers or the traditional methods of fundraising were stood down as a result. Nevertheless, some of the fundraising activities did go ahead with the Lotto and Last Man Standing all done online and the club embarking on a very successful Santa Dash. In his report, Stephen Duffy highlighted Lotto: The Lotto continues to be the main source of income, in order to maintain the day to day running of the club. Due to Covid-19, we are unable now to sell tickets in the pubs, but thankfully we have an online system which is keeping us going. I can’t emphasise enough, how important it is, for all our members, coaches, committee and players to keep sending out the link to do the lotto at the weekend to family and friends. It stands currently at €20,000 Wouldn’t that be a nice win! LMS We continued to run this enjoyable competition a couple of times a year, where you can show off your expertise in the Premier League in England. By picking 8 different teams to win over 8 weeks, for a cost of €10. The prize money is €500 for the Last Man Standing. This really should be a better seller than it is. It is a bit of craic and you can have a good bit of banter with your mates. We’re hoping to run another one before the end of the season. So please let us know if you want a ticket. Please let’s try to push it. If everyone could sell maybe 3 forms, that would be a great help. Santa Dash Finian Gardiner our Treasurer, came up with the idea to try and have a fundraiser before the end of the year and sold Santa Dash Idea to our committee. It was decided to run the event through A Go fund Me page. To take place on the weekend of December 4th/5th/6 th. Half of whatever money we raised to go to Martin Keane’s Winter food and fuel appeal. Basically, it involved members getting dressed up in Santa or Westport United gear and going for a run, walk, cycle, swim or whatever they felt like doing, and thank you so much to all the teams, committee members and patrons who took part. I have to say a huge thank you to Victoria Large for the enormous amount of work and creativity, she put into this. Her Benny Hill videos were priceless! She also managed to get a woman from Belmullet to make a gingerbread Football stadium with players and spectators included. it was completely edible. A number of spot prizes were donated and I would like to thank Colm McLoughlin of Market 57, James O’Donnell from Pro Therapy, Shauna Fee of Midwest Osteopaths, Curry’s Cake Angels and Jako for their generosity. After presenting a cheque for €2,000 to Martin Keane for his charity, it really was a moving moment to see how emotional and grateful he was for the donation. To hear Martin Keane speak about the all the families and individuals that this money would benefit over the Christmas, it really brought a tear to the eye. Martin as you all know is a vice-president of our club, but along with that, he really is a truly remarkable man, hopefully we can make the Santa Dash an annual event, and raise even more money for Martin’s worthy cause in the future. To conclude his comprehensive report, Stephen Duffy closed out his remarks, saying
Finally, I would like to thank every single person who helped me out in my first year as Chairman. It really was a steep learning curve for me, Covid-19 didn’t make it any easier, but the committee have been unbelievably supportive for me, thank you all so much. The Development committee, and especially Michael Horan, Peter Flynn and Brian Cusack who have always been there for me. Even though we are 2 different committees, at the end of the day, we are one club and thanks lads for the help. To our previous Chairman and Vice Chairman, Myles Staunton and Michael McDonnell, who were always available for me to bend their ear, thanks lads. Also, thanks to the Sports Park Directors Martin Barrett and Doug Whittaker for representing the club’s interest for the past year. Last but not least the coaches and players who make it all worthwhile. Thank you all for your dedication, support and patience towards our wonderful club and let’s hope 2021 is a great year!
In her Secretary's Report, Claire Reilly thanked all the volunteers that were involved in football over the last year and gave a detailed report of each team within the club and their achievements. Claire not only received praise for her comprehensive report but also for her hard work and efficiency in her role as Club Secretary right across the board.
Club Treasurer, Finian Gardner produced a very detailed report with the COVID-19 Pandemic highlighted in hitting the club's fundraising activities and in the coming year the club will be looking at opportunities to get more businesses involved while on the fundraising front as the club still has running expenses a message was sent for all team managers or parents to liaise to promote the fundraising activities of the club. Considering the impact on the club in fundraising activities, the club did very well under the circumstances over the past year. The outgoing Treasurer was thanked for all his work in managing the club's finances.
In the Development Committee Report, Peter Flynn gave an overview as to where it stood financially and was delighted to report that despite all the fundraising activities being curtailed and also being very lucky to run Stars In Their Eyes just before the first lockdown, the targets to pay off the loans for United Park were on target. Michael Horan outlined the plans for United Park including a sale, subject to planning for the development of houses, which then, if it all goes to plan, would be used to finance the development of a training area and a 4G astroturf. Michael Horan gave a visual on the plans for United Park, including the proposed planning permission for the housing development. It is hoped that there would be news regarding the planning application in April.
Two proposals were put before the AGM with a very bold one to have a D team, an U.20 team and to run a Summer Town League to cater for the huge demand of football in the club and its environs and it's something that's likely to be further discussed in procuring the right volunteers to work with both teams and to establish a working group to take on the Summer Town League project, subject to interest. The second proposal is to make first aid a mandatory requirement for every team in the club. The proposal is that each team must have one member of their management team that has completed a First Aid Certificate and this rule is currently mandatory in Junior Football and by virtue of extending this to all other teams in the club, Westport United would be playing a leading role in player safety.
Election of Officers and Committee: President: Willie Kelly Vice Presidents: Peter Flynn Snr, Frank Dolan, Tom Tarmey, Martin Keane, Aiden King, Sean McKenna Chairperson: Stephen Duffy Vice Chairperson: Keelan Moran Secretary: Claire Reilly Assistant Secretary: Victoria Large Interim Treasurer: Finian Gardner Assistant Treasurer: Donal Fahy PRO: Kenneth Gannon Assistant PRO: Finian Treanor Child Welfare Officer: Mike McGeough Player Welfare Officer: Gary Cunningham Sports Park Directors: Doug Whittaker, Martin Barrett Committee: Sean Joyce, Joe Kelly, Mark McDonagh, John Casey, Adrian Mc Ging, Colin McDonagh. Brian Cusack, Brendan McNally and Padraig Burns volunteered to assist the Committee externally.