O Fearghail sets sights on bridging the divide
Aogan O Fearghail
Cavan's Aogan O Fearghail, who was last night chosen as GAA president-elect, had strong winds in his sails from the start of the campaign as his rivals were from two provinces which each held the office twice since an Ulsterman last filled the position.
And while geographical considerations are never an overriding consideration in presidential contests, they can certainly influence voting patterns. Sean McCague (Monaghan) was the last Ulsterman to hold the presidency in 2000-03, followed by Sean Kelly (Kerry), Nicky Brennan (Kilkenny), Christy Cooney (Cork) and the incumbent, Liam O'Neill (Laois).
That 2-2 Munster-Leinster split left O Fearghail with an advantage against rivals Sean Walsh (Kerry) and Sheamus Howlin (Wexford) and he duly won the vote, thus becoming the first Cavan man to achieve the GAA's highest elected honour. He will spend the next year as president-elect, prior to taking over from O'Neill next February.
Providing more consistent playing schedules for club players will be among his top priorities at a time when there's growing disillusionment with the haphazard nature of the schedules which apply in many counties throughout most of the summer and early autumn.
Quite how he plans to bring about change remains to be seen as this problem has remained unresolved for quite some time, despite promises and plans from presidents and various high-powered committees.
O Fearghail has also expressed concerns over the growing divide between rich and poor, arising from the sponsorship and commercial deals which the larger, more successful counties are able to negotiate.
He believes that financial constraints should not be allowed to limit any county's capacity to match their richer counterparts when it comes to preparing teams.
"The distribution of our finances needs a review and we need to focus on how we can help the so-called weaker counties," he said.
O Fearghail has reservations about the Football Review Committee's proposal to relocate three Leinster and one Ulster first-round championship losers to Connacht and Munster and also believes that the Ireland-Australia International Rules series may have run its course.
"A lot will depend on the 2014 series in Australia and their attitude to it," he said.
He backs the concept of playing more senior inter-county games on Friday evenings.
"Saturday evening games are popular, so why not on Fridays," he said.
Aged 54, he is principal of Dernakesh National School near Cootehill in Cavan and is married with four children.