PAUL HEALY talks to County Board chairperson, Brian Carroll…

‘Davy? We needed someone to come in and develop the team. It was a risk, but he was very enthusiastic’

‘I WAS NO ALL STAR!’

PH: So Brian, what was your childhood like?

BC: I’m a native of Kilmore, youngest of a family of five. It was very much a farming background, growing up in a rural area. My parents are Anthony and Ethel. They have always been very supportive of me in anything I’ve taken on. I went to Scrabbagh NS, then to Carrick Community School. After Carrick I went straight into Templemore (for Garda training). It was a happy childhood.

PH: Was it a GAA upbringing?

BC: Very much so. My brothers brought me to games from once I was aged four or five. I remember attending the 1989 Connacht final, actually between Roscommon and Mayo, at the Hyde. It was my first game. Gerry Finneran, my brother Daniel’s father-in-law, began bringing me to help do ‘the gate’ at county games.

PH: You played GAA?

BC: Well now Paul…I was no All Star! I played a bit. I played underage and junior with Kilmore. I actually joined the Kilmore executive at the age of 18. I served as chairperson of the Kilmore minor committee and went on to become the senior club chairperson. I’ve been Kilmore PRO for fourteen years. I served as chairperson of the Roscommon GAA Supporters Club. I was chairperson of the GAA National Youth Committee and I’ve also represented Connacht on the CCCC. After five years as County Board Secretary I was elected County Board Chairperson in December 2020.

PH: You’re steeped in parish life, in rural communities. Do you despair for the future of such areas, or are you more optimistic?

BC: You’d have concerns about the lack of new homes being built in rural areas. People are naturally attracted to bigger towns and cities. I suppose if there was any benefit from Covid, it was the fact that this trend might have turned slightly, due to remote working. A few friends of mine have moved home, but at the same time you’d like to see more homes being built.

PH: You are a serving member of An Garda Síochána, based in Roscommon town…

BC: Yes, I work in the Victims’ Service. I interact with victims of crime in Roscommon-Longford. I deal with a lot of people, a lot of injured parties. I’m also a Garda liaison officer.

 

‘NO DECISION YOU MAKE WILL KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY’

PH: Is being County Board chairperson a challenging role, in terms of the workload, the time involved?

BC: I love the GAA. I love Roscommon. I love Kilmore. I know there’s always challenges, always difficulties. I get phone calls at 7.30 am in the morning and at 11.30 at night. I may not take every one at the time, but I get back to people. Sometimes there are small problems at a club that we can sort. I know that as chairperson no decision you make will keep everyone happy and that if it does, well then maybe it’s the wrong decision, or you may be doing it for the wrong reason.

PH: Is there an individual who has been a particular influence on your career as a GAA official?

BC: That’s a very good question. There have been a lot of people in Kilmore GAA that I could bounce problems off, discuss issues or ideas with. I might pass on naming people for fear of leaving someone out!

 

LET’S TALK MANAGERS…

PH: I wanted to talk to you about Roscommon managers. You were in situ as County Chairperson when Anthony Cunningham called it a day…

BC: Yeah, Anthony was there for four years. It was a difficult time for him. He won a Connacht title with Roscommon in his first year, in 2019. Then Covid disrupted things. Anthony didn’t have a free run. It was very difficult for him for 18 months or so. But he’s a top class manager. He brought huge experience and knowledge to the set-up.

PH: How did it end?

BC: I got a phone from Anthony, it would have been last August. I was disappointed when he rang and informed me that he was stepping down as manager. I know how much the Clare defeat hurt him (Clare beat Roscommon in the All-Ireland qualifiers). He was shell-shocked (by the manner of the loss). It was very difficult for him to take.

PH: It’s common knowledge that the process of appointing a successor was a long drawn out one. How did it evolve?

BC: It was a long drawn out process, but not because of lack of effort on our part. Vinnie Glennon and Paul Earley and the officers of the board were brought together at the earliest opportunity. A number of targets were identified and worked on. Some of them (those interactions) dragged on. Much of it had to do with the sheer volume of commitment and work involved in being a manager. There is so, so much involved. I don’t know where we will be in 10 years’ time. They (managers) have to park their life. People we identified and approached could not commit.

PH: Is social media a factor in that regard?

BC: Social media is a concern. I fully accept and understand that County Board officers and managers should be answerable (to supporters)…but the abuse and the content directed on social media at team managers, players and officers is definitely a hindrance towards recruitment.

PH: How did Davy Burke end up being the choice?

BC: We continued working on our shortlist. Davy was one of the candidates we interviewed. We met him in the Mullingar Park Hotel and interviewed him there.  We felt Davy was the best person for the job.

PH: How many times did you interview him?

BC: Once.

PH: What was it about him that impressed you?

BC: I liked his attention to detail, it was very impressive. I liked his methods, his way of preparing a team. He wasn’t a guy who came into the room and said ‘I did this and I did that’. He showed us how he prepares a team, how he approaches things. He put his words into action.

PH: Some people will point to his relative lack of experience…

BC: We had to look at the bigger picture. We needed someone to come in and develop the team. He had won an All-Ireland U-20 title as manager (with Kildare). It was a risk, but he was very enthusiastic. I rang Davy to inform him. I told him we were offering him the job. He was delighted. So far so good!

PH: We’ve had a very good league campaign. How do you reflect on that?

BC: Very happy. I suppose the general talk before it started was if Roscommon could get four points it would be a massive achievement. But then we beat Tyrone, Galway, Armagh and Donegal. Those victories were impressive. In the other three games, we weren’t far off the pace. A couple of new lads came in. Ben O’Carroll, Daire Cregg, guys like that have come along and they’ve pushed on. That’s good to see. No player

will be there forever. Their emergence is a product of excellent work that’s gone on at underage level.

PH: Have you been happy with the response of supporters?

BC: Yes. We’ve been getting more and more support at games…a large number of people travelled to Tralee, which is a long journey. People seem to have bought into Davy Burke and his attitude and positivity. People are behind the team.

 

MONEY TALKS

Last Christmas, Brian Carroll confirmed that a €4m upgrade was planned for Dr Hyde Park. Carroll indicated that €1m was ring-fenced for the project (through Roscommon GAA fundraising). Roscommon County Board has acquired a loan of €2m. The remaining €1m was to come via a loan from GAA HQ. However, the GAA is not currently in a position to provide that funding, meaning the €2m loan cannot yet be drawn down. Accordingly, the €4m project has to be undertaken in smaller phases. Already, new seating has gone in.

PH: How is Club Rossie going, and how are the County Board finances?

BC: Club Rossie is going very well. As you know, we have a major draw at the moment, with a €200,000 prize. There is massive work going on behind the scenes, with weekly meetings. That draw is crucial, as we need a lot of money to run everything.

PH: How much money?

BC: To run the various teams alone…you’re probably talking about €700k-€800k per year. It varies. The Club Rossie business membership is crucial too. We’re very grateful to all the businesses who have supported us. Of course I’d like to thank our two main sponsors, Sean Mulryan and Tom Hunt, for their unbelievable support. One of the big recent projects has been the development of a new gym, costing €250k. The equipment is top quality. All our teams use it.

PH: In relation to Hyde Park, are there any plans to address the condition of the Hyde Centre?

BC: We don’t own it.

PH: I know, but are there any plans to have the situation dealt with?

BC: We’re continuing to liaise constructively with Roscommon Gaels to try to reach a solution. As I indicated last year, we devised an overall plan for Hyde Park, to the tune of €4m. We have received planning permission for new stiles and a perimeter wall which would run between the Hyde Centre and the rest of the stadium. There are plans for new dressing rooms and toilets.

PH: Will any of that work start this year?
BC: Well, we are waiting on funding. In the meantime, we have to do it in phases. We recently completed a project whereby we put all new seating into the stand. It cost €250,000.

PH: Will the new dressing rooms and toilets start this year?

BC: We’re hopeful we’ll have Government funding this year. We are hoping a Sports Capital Funding programme will be opened. We also have some health and safety issues that we’re addressing. Tenders are gone out. Some of that work will go ahead this summer. There will be catering pods going in on the Sacred Heart Hospital side of the stadium.

PH: What is the up to date position with the Centre of Excellence project?

BC: We have agreed a land purchase, subject to planning permission being granted. We have had some pre-planning meetings with Roscommon County Council. That’s basically the position as of now.

 

THE FUTURE…

PH: You are sometimes linked with a political run in the future?

BC: (Smiles).

PH: There was speculation in recent years that you might throw your hat into the political ring. Have you ambitions?

BC: I’m very busy with my work with An Garda Síochána and Roscommon County Board. I love doing both jobs; I love working with people. You asked me earlier about my parents being supportive of me. Now you’re asking me about politics…you could say, when there was speculation about me and politics, that one of my parents was very supportive, and the other not quite as supportive!

PH: And further GAA boardroom ambitions?

BC: If the clubs leave me in my position, I’ll have two and a half more years as County Board chairperson!

PH: This Sunday, we play Mayo in Castlebar. Thoughts on it and the new championship format?

BC: We’ve seen Mayo in the league, they are flying. It’s a big challenge for us. As for the new-look championship, there will be group stages, I’m looking forward to them. It’s exciting.

PH: Roscommon will come face to face with Kevin McStay on Sunday. Now the Mayo manager, he’s a man you worked closely with when he was Roscommon manager. Does it add an interesting dynamic?

BC: I worked closely with Kevin for two years when he was Roscommon manager and I was County Board Secretary. I aways got on well with Kevin, he was always courteous. We worked well together. But once we meet at MacHale Park on Sunday, he won’t be wishing me well and I won’t be wishing him well!