Billy Foley.

County Board on the hunt for a new chair

The Westmeath County Board is on the hunt for a new chairman.

It was announced recently that current chairman Billy Foley and the PRO Donie Malone will not be seeking re-election at the upcoming county convention.

Mr Foley said that while it was a “privilege” and an “honour” to chair the county board for the last three years, it was always his intention to stay in the position for one term.

“I said all along I would stay for three years. I gave it my best and I hope people were happy enough with what I did.

“It’s a big commitment. We all have families and I promised my family that I would do it for three years. I was the supporters' club chairman for three years, the hurling board chairman for three years, the vice chairman for three years and the coaching and games officer for three years. I have done my bit,” the Brownstown clubman said.

During his tenure Mr Foley has not been afraid to express his opinion on issues he felt were important to Westmeath GAA. Earlier this year he spoke about the huge financial implications that the loss of income during the Covid-19 crisis would have on smaller dual counties such as Westmeath in the coming years.

It is important that Westmeath and other counties of a similar size have a “voice” when it comes to issues affecting them, he says.

“I have always been very ambitious for Westmeath football and hurling. We are a great GAA county with a high participation rate in both hurling and football. I am hugely proud of us being a dual county. I think sometimes we are a little bit hesitant to praise ourselves.

“Other counties might have more success on the field but we are a really great GAA county and that needs to be told to people.”

Promoting both codes equally provides a constant financial challenge for the county board, Mr Foley said.

“If you compare ourselves to say a county where only one code is promoted, our costs are double. That means realistically that if Westmeath is to run both teams at a competitive level, Westmeath County Board needs to be turning €2m a year. That’s the reality, the costs are huge. It is a tough gig for the county board.”

When asked if he had any advice for whoever replaces him as chair of the county board, Mr Foley joked that “they can be prepared to be tired a good bit”.

“They should keep their health up and make sure that family life comes first. It’s a big job and one that is a privilege and honour to do,” he said.

In a statement, the county board thanked Mr Foley and the outgoing PRO Donie Malone for the “excellent work” they have done for Westmeath GAA.

The county board advised clubs thinking about nominating members for the roles of chairman or PRO to speak to the potential candidates beforehand as “these positions will require a serious personal commitment”.