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Depopulation of rural Ireland key area for new GAA chief Tom Ryan

By John Fogarty

New GAA director general Tom Ryan has taken issue with commentary about him as “inside appointment” who will be guided by commercial principles.

The former finance director of the organisation spoke to the media for the first time since he accepted the role last month and rejected the suggestion he was a safe appointment based on his previous 11 years in Croke Park.

“I think it’s probably a little unfair to reach those conclusions before somebody has even started in the position, but it’s up to me and it’s incumbent upon me to make my mark on the thing while I’m there,” he said.

“I am an insider to the extent that I have worked here for the last, whatever it is, 10 or 11 years, but I think that’s not necessarily and shouldn’t be presented as an impediment to getting things done or achieving things or to perhaps changing things.

“I’d like to think that I have a little bit of insight into how the GAA works and how change can be brought about in an organisation that is, I suppose, of its nature inherently conservative - but that’s not a bad thing and I have vision to the extent that I think I’m in a good position that I work at both ends of the spectrum, if you like.”

Ryan (pictured) insisted his previous guise balancing the GAA’s books won’t colour his term.

“While I was in what was overtly a financial role, I'd like to think that my thinking wasn't purely financial. I think finance and commercialism within the Association as a means to an end is nothing more than that. It's the means by which you try to accumulate the resources in order to further the other stuff that you have to do. It was no harm to a certain extent that I was coming from the financial perspective.

“There's not too much of that perspective despite perceptions to the contrary, that perspective around the place. The thinking I will bring to it is not purely financial. It's not even financial at all and I have a little job of work to do to distance myself from that financial debate and those financial questions and you will see that hopefully happening over the course of the months ahead. I think somebody else might be coming into the role that I filled and I'm sure that they'll do just as good a job.”

Urbanisation and the depopulation of rural Ireland are key areas for Ryan. “You’ll have seen what the outgoing Árd Stiúrthoir (Páraic Duffy) referred to in his report," he sai, "one particular theme in that which we do need to examine is urbanisation and the shift in population from the western seaboard over towards the eastern seaboard and the challenges that that presents for units both urban and rural.”