Des Halpenny: "The old faceless online forums of social media still remain popular among the keyboard warriors who sit sadly at home waiting for something to go wrong or for something to fail."
Now Louth County Board chairman for a fifth year, Des Halpenny pulled no punches in his 30 minute to address to convention at Darver last Tuesday night.
In the midst of moving through the year, he raised an eclectic topic, his referencing of online criticism was especially jaw-dropping and many delegates looked at each other through the startled eyes of a child preparing to get a tooth pulled.
“The old faceless online forums of social media still remain popular among the keyboard warriors who sit sadly at home waiting for something to go wrong or for something to fail,” he said.
“It’s a sad way for somebody to get their kicks and usually indicates some sort of longing or inadequacy and definitely a lack of integrity from the individual.
“Sadly, it is people that we know, and we know well, people with two faces masquerading as great Louth GAA people, smiling at you one moment and undermining and assassinating your character online the next.
“I feel duty-bound to raise the issue and I condemn any personal slandering of our committees and officers on social media and online forums. Any decision taken in action is done in the best interests of this county and the ridiculing, vicious, calculated abuse online is unacceptable and we will continue to protect our people…”
There was another dig, this time towards, one can only assume, Stefan White, the former Louth player turned match analyst on LMFM.
“It was disappointing that players were publicly singled out by name, particularly after the Leitrim game, by someone who should know better, an ex-player who played with multiple clubs and counties. Everyone who goes out on to that field goes out to play their best,” Halpenny said.
“This organisation is unique. Our players and stars are embedded in our communities. There are no big money transfer fees or agents to contend with. This is not the Premiership.
“How can they be expected to play for their county if they’re going to come up against that (criticism) and I hope there is no repeat of this going forward.”
And, finally, the most interesting admission of all.
“I often compare Louth GAA to being on a rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, it’s emotional and it’s very rarely in between… one thing is for sure, you’ll never get bored in Louth GAA, it’s a journalist’s dream.”
The latter, well…
Halpenny addressed the year gone by, flying through his summary with multiples uses of metaphors, the meanings of which took some time to determine.
“We have endured a difficult year on the field… The water was going out of the hole at the bottom quicker than it could be put back in… There are only a few inches between a pat on the back and a kick on the backside.”
There was no “sugar-coating” Louth’s recent-year championship record: “Our championship record has been abysmal.”
This before the drawback references to 12 months ago, where there was a league promotion for the seniors and provincial final dates involving both Louth juniors and minors.
“I never feel sorry for myself and don’t overanalyse things,” was another statement of interest, given the word “I” was used repetitively throughout his longer than usual speech.
It was clear that, as Bob Doheny’s intention was still to put his name forward for the chairmanship election, Halpenny wanted to make full use of his final opportunity to convince delegates that he was the man to lead Louth GAA in 2019.
To be fair, he achieved this. His report was painstakingly comprehensive and he must be commended in this regard, but there were some jarring aspects, his lauding of the impact Coaching & Games is having upon this county’s budding talent was wildly overstated on the evidence of the year past.
“It is widely acknowledged that we have one of the best Coaching & Games structures within the province and beyond - that’s a fact. We are regularly held up as a market leader and a model of best practice within the province. We did all this ourselves.”
Yet Meath remain an immovable object to any Wee County team in their clashes, never mind the other Leinster big hitters, Dublin and Kildare, while Louth’s U20s and 17s suffered losses to Carlow and Offaly, and drew with Wicklow in competition, winning just two matches from seven across the two grades.
St. Kevins’ David Rogers has been a long-time campaigner on issues pertaining to the county’s underage structures and developmental processes. He once again put forth questions over Louth’s position in regard to producing players of an adequate inter-county standard.
The answers from the top-table were honest, if not overly convincing; ultimately, the only way this can be achieved is by seeing an upturn over the summers to come. Although the appointment of Ciarán Sloan, a Roche Emmets clubman who works in strength and conditioning with Ulster Rugby, having previously been involved with Down GAA, was widely welcomed given his pedigree.
For fear of being one of the “energy vampires”, it must be added that Halpenny presided over the closure of the long-doomed Gaelic Grounds project in Drogheda and has been involved in various initiatives which have boosted inclusion, such as the Louth GAA Youth Forum and prize-rewarding art competitions for children. The Charlie McAllister bursary scheme has also flourished.
But it is clear, on the back of his extremely slender prevailing, that Halpenny’s painting of positivity isn’t altogether an accurate design.
The chairman is wished well for 2019: let’s hope he makes his final campaign his most productive.