Mayo GAA, Tim O’Leary and the Lesson of an old Twenty pound note.

It is, maybe, an unfortunate quirk of fate that Mr Tim O’Leary, of Mayo GAA fundraising fame, bears a more than passing resemblance to the latter day appearance of one Nick Leeson. If the name doesn’t ring a bell Google Baring’s Bank.

As we might say here in the West, while Nick Leeson was a great man, at the end of the day he only managed to bankrupt a 233 year old, multi-billion pound merchant bank; the second oldest in the world at the time. Tim O’Leary on the other hand is a lot more talented and ambitious, he’s seems to be trying to take down the Mayo County Board.

The whole sorry mess of the 250,000 being withheld due to issues of corporate governance in Mayo GAA, brought to mind a lesson I learned as a teenager working in my father’s pub.

1989 was a different era of course, a time of zero hour contracts and zero pay for 15 year old off-spring of family run businesses. In truth though it wasn’t a chore.

I remember the day in question was a Tuesday for the simple reason Tuesday was dole day and that invariably meant a few more customers on a Tuesday evening in a country pub. At some point during the night my father was gone off tapping a barrel of Guinness and I was left with a counter of 12 or maybe 14 customers to deal with on my own.

Bar tending has it’s own rhythms, so that while one person could easily handle such a small crowd the nature of men drinking pints and shorts in rounds meant that every 20 minutes or so you could get a short burst of activity and a call for 10 pints at the same time if you were unlucky.

Needless to say, one such burst duly arrived shortly after my father was changing a barrel. In the middle of filling one order a man at the end of the counter raised his hand and with his other hand pointed downward to the two pint glasses nearing their last rites.

An old blue twenty pound note between his fingers indicated he was a serious buyer!

I made a mental note of the order and finished the other customers I was serving and then set about filling the man’s drinks and after 3 or 4 minutes completed the transaction. As I gave him his change he says to me

‘ I’ve been watching you – Your a mighty young fella – here go buy yourself a bottle of pop’

He proceeded to leave a 50 pence piece on the counter and turned back to the man he was with and resumed his conversation.

Tipping of any description in any business was a silly pursuit of Americans in 1989. I looked over at my old man for some non verbal advice as to what to do, none was forthcoming, so I gingerly picked up the coin, thought fuck it and put in my pocket.

The rest of the night flowed peacefully and the last customer was gone by a little after midnight. As I was polishing the last of the pint glasses from the dishwasher – I went over to my father who was at the till and flipped the 50p coin into the tray like the big spender I was.

‘ I’m having a can of Coke ‘

His reply was steady but firm

‘ No you’re not – take a look at this till and tell me what’s wrong with it’

So I looked and on first glance, nothing looked amiss. However when I took the twenties out from their slot and started to count ( there were only 3!) there second from the top was a fiver not a twenty.

Big deal I thought. I just put a fiver in the wrong slot.

My father quickly disabused me of this pipe-dream and explained that while I was busy taking two or three orders together, the gentleman who had caught my attention with the twenty between his fingers calmly replaced the twenty and left a fiver on the counter.

As I was busy trying to get 3 orders out together, my brain relied on the the subliminal image of the twenty that was burned in my brain as I picked up the man’s money.

You might say I looked but I didn’t see.

There is a peculiar kind of shame in business when you know you have been done, especially, especially when you know it’s 95% your own fault and walk straight into it.

In 1989 a 15 pound mistake was more than the night’s profit – I was indeed a mighty young fella, the full meaning of the strangers words registering in all their glory.

‘Why didn’t you stop me ?’

‘ I wanted to see if you were paying attention to what people do? ‘ my father replied

My ears burned redder and I stormed out of the pub and went to sit in the car as he finished up and locked the bar. We drove home in silence and pulled into the back of the house. As I got of the car he told me to grab the plastic bag of messages for my mother in the back seat.

I was still berating myself as I was absentmindedly looking thru the bag of groceries.

A carton of milk, a block of Calvita cheese, a loaf of bread and…….a shiny red can of Coke.

I never forgot the kindness of the Coca-Cola or the value of the lesson.

Forgive the cynic in me.

At this point, I’d like proof that Mr O’Leary has all the money he collected rather than endless debate of how Mayo County board may eventually mis-use it.

Undoubtedly county boards all around the country could do with a shot of corporate governance but so to do groups of people going around the global village raising money under the banner of supporting Irish GAA.

After all…..the GAA public at the very least are entitled to know that the change of 20 is in the till and not in someone’s pocket.

Both sides in this argument have questions to answer and proofs to provide.

1 thought on “Mayo GAA, Tim O’Leary and the Lesson of an old Twenty pound note.

  1. Although Nick Leeson was convicted of fraud and served time for his heinous crime what ultimately caused the demise of Barings was it’s own lack of corporate governance, compliance and stewardship.
    That to me would seem to be the common thread between the two primary entities involved here namely Mayo GAA and Barings rather than individuals involved in either saga.
    The parable of the young bar man is also an instructive tale but I myself having spent a long and instructive career in many a hostilery am more familiar with the inebriated unsuspecting punter handing over a twenty and receiving the change of a fiver from the shifty barman.
    Never the less I would query who in either tale is represented by Mr O’Leary, the barman or the punter?

    What is not doubted or disputed by any party in the current dispute including the Mayo County Board is that Mr O’Leary personally donated 150K to the Mayo County Board in early 2018 to finance the seasons preparations for the coming championship.
    What is disputed is what the money was spent on, as Mr. O’Leary provided the donation on the condition it was used for specific purposes namely the preparation of the senior team for the coming championship and having requested evidence of such he received none. Nearly 18 months later he received numerous receipts which did not reflect the agreement and were unsatisfactory.
    To provide sustainable funding for future strategic projects in Mayo such as the Youth Academy and a proposed Centre Of Excellence it was discussed with the County Board that a Foundation could be set up to attract high net worth individuals or corporations with a direct or indirect link to Mayo who would be disposed to provide financial support for such philanthropic causes linked to their heritage- the County of their heritage.
    Mr O’Leary provided start up capital for this organisation and also human resource and set about gathering contacts and support. In April 9th 2019 Mr O’Leary e-mailed the County Board with updates as to the formation of the Foundation, the proposed governance structure and the terms under which donors had agreed to provide financial support and under what terms money raised could be drawn down (financial transparency)
    On the basis of this letter the County Board Chairman instructed Mr O’Leary to continue with the Foundation under these terms and it was agreed a Gala Launch Function would be held in New York in May to coincide with the Mayo team trip to New York.
    Flyers and advertising were created to promote the Gala and a Foundation website created all of which set out the Mission, the Governance structure of the Foundation, the strategic Mayo GAA projects which the foundation agreed to support and also other not for profit organisations such as the Mayo Roscommon Hospice which the Foundation committed to support financially.
    The Gala was a success raising $370K with Mr O’Leary personally donating a further $300K and when all costs including donations to other not for profits such as New York GAA, Rockland GAA & the costs for Mayo GAA trip to New York + a the 3 day training camp and the costs of the Gala were removed there is a balance of $253K in the Foundation accounts waiting to be drawn down by the Mayo County Board for the agreed strategic projects when agreed terms and conditions have been met (financial transparency)
    Nobody disputes these accounts including the Mayo County Board who in their recent statement released to the press on Wednesday 30th of October agreed with the statement of accounts as released by the Foundation.
    I understand the Mayo County Board have requested the money on several occasions but the Foundation have remained steadfast that the money is for strategic projects and plans must first be provided to support these projects before the money can be drawn down, the County Board have failed to provide any plans for these projects thus far and indeed at the recent County Board meeting of Wednesday 30th Oct the Mayo County Board released a statement in essence saying that they at this late stage had no plans in place due to various unsubstantiated reasons, strange all this given these are strategic projects for which they sought financial support from Mr O’Leary in 2018.
    What is also strange and concerning is that it transpired that a follow up letter which again reiterated the governance structure of the Foundation and under what terms funding could be drawn down by the County Board was submitted by the Foundation to the County Board on July 11th but addressed to the County Secretary, this letter was read out by the secretary at an executive Board meeting and it appears the CB treasurer got up and walked out as to this point he claimed to be unaware of the April 9th letter, strange governance structures indeed and even stranger when the board never replied to this second letter from the Foundation either.

    However subsequently when Mr O’Leary sought to contact the treasurer directly, the treasure in an open e-mail to other delegates referred to Mr O’Leary as a Donkey. Strange how they treat valuable customers in the saloon bar that is Mayo GAA County Board.
    It also subsequently transpired that 10 # All Ireland tickets which had been promised to the Foundation as part of the Fund raising efforts for auctions and donors at the Gala event were not forth coming from the County Board to the Foundation in September. The Foundation contacted the Mayo County Board to inform them that as a Foundation they had committed these tickets to donors and to fulfil this commitment had sough the 10 tickets on the open market and were quoted 5K for the tickets. The County Board seen this as a nice earning opportunity and then provided the 10 # tickets for to the Foundation @5K (that’s a lot of twenties, handy cash to keep in the bar float like!)

    You also reference governance structures in your piece so I just wanted to advise that the Foundation was set up as a registered charity in the United States as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and it is fully accredited by The Ireland Funds https://irelandfunds.org/
    The behaviour and required conduct standards of the Foundation are governed by its affiliation to The Ireland Funds and the Foundation must adhere to their strict Ireland Funds governance guidelines at all times.
    The County Board are currently audited by OMara Loftus who in 2018 charged 12.3K for the services, previous to this the audit services was provided by an organisation called McDermotts who charged 1.8K for the service.
    That’s a great disparity in costs, and if I as a customer were receiving a service from provide A @ circa 2K and my procurement team advised they had another service provider B who offered the same service at 12K I would certainly want to now what I was receiving for such a gap in costs, was it quality, was it quantity OR just nicer letter head on the paperwork – it just all seems strange does it not?

    I am not a spokes person for the Foundation and all the information above is in the public domain thanks to the transparency offered by the Foundation.
    Referring back to the parable with which you structured your story I would ask in which role you see Mr. O’Leary, the young barman or the clever punter?
    I think myself that Mr. O’Leary is still waiting for his can of Coke.

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