The Effect Covid-19 has on Rural GAA Clubs

Published on 2 April 2021 at 18:00

For years, the hospitality sector has been a great source of sponsorship for the local GAA team in their municipalities however, 2020 saw the hospitality industry short changed and suffering huge losses. What might this mean for the stream of revenue local GAA clubs have been dependent on for so many years?



One GAA club that knows all about it is Naomh Mhuire Lower Rosses in Annagry in the rural west Donegal.



Naomh Mhuire has had the generous sponsorship of Sharkey’s bar in Annagry being their primary sponsor. The club treasurer Paddy McCreery had nothing but praise about Sharkey’s bar whenever he was asked about how good they have been to the club over the years saying, “Very good, excellent as they have been the main sponsors for our jerseys and whenever we host any wee events.  We are only a small community; we are only in a small rural catchment kind of area here with no real towns in the area you know.”



Mr. McCreery added: “Our catchment area goes from Burton port to Crolly, so there are no real towns in that whole area you know, so Annagry is the biggest village if you call it that even and Sharkeys and Duffys are the only two pubs in the place. We don’t really have that many people we can ask to sponsor us you know but Sharkeys have been very good to us alright over the years”. The struggles in the lower Rosses represent what many rural GAA clubs are going through at this moment in time.



Whenever you’re a treasurer at a rural GAA club it is natural that you’re going to face an uphill battle with a small membership pool yet the same insurance and utility costs as every other GAA club. Many battles come and go whenever you attempt to balance the books, but would the financial hit of your main sponsor be the biggest challenge?



The West Donegal man believes, “Absolutely, we have had to cancel our lotto and then our other two sponsors were two bus companies, Bus Feda who sponsor the underage and John O Donnell who sponsors the ladies end of things, so that’s our three kit sponsors and the bus of course the transport end of things have been shut up as well so their business has been really badly affected by it as well. Again we are not looking to them for sponsorship whenever their business has been badly hit."



"Then on the advertising side of things we have pitch side advertising boards which brings in money every year and we weren’t able to approach anyone for renewing that last year because obviously there was no games going on and again the businesses were badly hit, so we couldn’t very well go and ask them for money and they weren’t going to get any advertising. Our lotto is suspended like everybody else nobody can go out door to door selling lotto tickets or our lotto coordinator can’t go around the pubs selling them either so we are hit badly in that way too” and our biggest fundraiser is WAR.”



Mr. McCreery added: “WAR is the wild Atlantic adventure race and that is a major fundraiser for the year and that had to be cancelled this year. Like we have had a lot of people enter it this year but even with a lot of entries we weren’t able to run it so then we had to offer everybody their entry fee back.”


It remains to be seen whether GAA clubs in such rural areas such as this passionate example in Donegal can bounce back and get a stream of revenue in order to survive. It would seem that the closure of hospitality sector is having a dramatic effect on the ability for small rural GAA teams to thread water. 

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