President-elect Brennan promises to proceed with 'considerable caution'
NICKY BRENNAN'S parish in a quiet corner of Kilkenny doesn't have a public house in it, but no doubt they still managed to raise a glass to a man who has consistently helped to put Conahy Shamrocks on the national map for the past 30 years.
As a player, manager and official, Brennan has had a microscopic view of how the GAA works, preparing him for his ascension to the highest office that same association can bestow.
A 171 to 154 victory over the slight favourite Christy Cooney returned Brennan as the first Kilkenny GAA president since Paddy Buggy's reign between 1982 and 1985.
It was only a mild surprise because the vote always shaped like it would be tight.
How could you call it between two accomplished and polished candidates from counties well versed in the art of GAA politics?
Brennan, a 52-year-old purchasing manager with Glanbia, always felt that the numbers stacked up in his favour and in the end he was right.
"I always knew it was going to be close. In fact at the Management Committee table at lunchtime, someone brought up the possibility of what happens in the event of a tie. That's how people were thinking. It gave you an indication of close it was."
Brennan sensed that many of Leinster's 97 votes went his way. "I had support in all four provinces, but Leinster came in strong," he said.
Cooney too felt confident that he would become Cork's first president since Con Murphy in the mid-'70s.
In many respects, this presidential election was dwarfed by Rule 42 and it's hard to detach one from the other in assessing the outcome. Cooney opposed any form of change and articulated his reasons well, but in the climate that existed over the last few weeks that stance cost him votes.
Indisputably, Cork's failure to put Rule 42 to a County Board vote on Tuesday night last, despite being technically correct given the make up of their Board, also impacted on the mindset of undecided floating voters.
Cooney's dignity and graciousness in defeat won't be forgotten in three years time if he decides to run for election again. There are few other obvious candidates on the horizon.
But for now, Brennan will be a very safe hand in the tiller. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to some of the men who helped him on the path to administration, namely the late Tom Ryall, Ted Carroll and Tommy Murphy.
Inevitably, a quick press briefing afterwards was dominated by the historic decision in the hours before.
"It saw the association move into a new era and it showed that it's not afraid to make big decisions," countenanced the new president elect.
But he made it clear that in his term there would be considerable caution in how the use of Croke Park is advanced. "I would want to assure people who did not favour the decision to change Rule 42 that those who were in favour of change are very conscious of their responsibilities.
"If there is to be other games in Croke Park we will make sure that things are handled in an appropriate manner if the request is made.
"There is a lot of work to be done. This was only one step, albeit the major step in the process of having other sports in here. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that everything is put in place.
But he couldn't get away from the symbolism of the vote.
"It was enormously important. The people who promoted the motion and talked about the enormous groundswell of opinion from people around the country.
"Let's be quite clear. We're talking about a period when Lansdowne Road is being redeveloped when we will possibly have teams from other sports playing games inside this organisation.
"When Lansdowne Road is developed that would the end of it and it would revert back to the status quo.
"Let there be no ambiguity about that and I want to be quite unequivocal on that matter.
"The people who have supported the motion today are not going to tear the heart out of the GAA. Their ideals of the GAA are not going to be any less than they were. Life changes and people's views of the world are changing.
"Today's decision is an expression of how a new generation of Irish people is thinking. The people who opposed the change still remaining hugely important in our organisation and I would ask to stick with the work that they've been doing."