Monday 26 February 2018

From sporting glory to boardroom success

Simon Rowe looks at five GAA stars who crossed the divide with honours

Bernard Brogan. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Bernard Brogan. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Brian McEniff
Pat Gilroy. Photo: Collins
Liam Sheedy. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Griffin. Photo: Sportsfile

Simon Rowe

1. Bernard Brogan

Bernard Brogan is the GAA's most bankable star. After winning three All-Ireland titles, the Dublin forward continues to score off the field with business and sponsorship deals.

Estimates put his sponsorship earnings at €100,000 per year, with sponsors including Volkswagen and SuperValu, as well as brand ambassador roles with Vodafone, Red Bull and AIG.

As a trained accountant with a masters in marketing and business management, the Dubs star is a boardroom-savvy sportsman. As well as being a company director of about eight firms - including a tech firm in Dublin's Digital Hub - Brogan co-owns Legacy Sports & Entertainment Consultants.

Legacy is a specialist professional consultancy firm providing talent representation, sponsorship consultancy, digital, PR and event management services to clients in the sports and entertainment industries.

It doubled its profits last year to €92,000 from €41,000, and Brogan's firm is sitting on a cash pile of €190,000, according to recent company filings.

Legacy has been retained by big-ticket client, the insurance giant AIG, to help it "activate" its €4m Dubs sponsorship deal.

Brogan's business partners in Legacy include his cousin, solicitor James Brogan, another former member of the Dubs panel.

The firm has also head-hunted Kevin Moore, the former head of sports marketing at Fleishman Hillard.

Bernard, along with his brother Alan, has also dabbled in property investment. Their names were linked to the purchase of a hotel in Ashbourne for a reported €8m. The four-star 148-bedroom Pillo hotel is located near Tayto Park. Brogan also reportedly forked out €2.75m to take control of the Dundrum House resort and golf course in Co Tipperary.

2. Brian McEniff

Multi-millionaire and GAA legend Brian McEniff has known success off the pitch as well as on it.

The former Donegal football manager has 50 years' experience in the hotel industry with his family-owned and operated hotel group. The McEniff hotel group has been in operation since 1951 and now employs more than 600 staff. The group comprises five hotels on the Wild Atlantic Way - the Great Northern Hotel, Holyrood Hotel, Great Southern Hotel Sligo, Yeats Country Hotel Sligo, and the Best Western Westport Woods Hotel - as well as the Best Western Dublin Skylon Hotel in Drumcondra.

The Dublin Skylon Hotel was extensively refurbished in 2013 and is undergoing a €1m investment by the group which will enable its transition to a four-star hotel. The Skylon was built in 1969 by hotel tycoon PV Doyle and acquired by the McEniff family in 2002.

The high point of McEniff's managerial career was masterminding Donegal's 1992 All-Ireland victory over Dublin. He led them to the semis in 2003.

McEniff coached the Ireland team to victory over Australia in the International Rules football series in Australia in 2001.

As a player, he received an All-Star Award in 1972 and twice won the Ulster Senior Football Championship.

3. Pat Gilroy

Former Dubs manager Pat Gilroy is one of the country's top businessmen. He is boss of Veolia Energy Ireland plc, a water, waste and energy management firm. Veolia is on an expansion drive with plans to boost its Irish workforce to 800 by 2019.

Gilroy won the All-Ireland senior football final with Dublin in 2011, having previously won it as a player in 1995.

His firm is part of the French-owned Veolia group and was renamed Veolia Energy Ireland plc from Dalkia Ireland plc in 2014.

Veolia still owns a 20pc stake in Luas operator Transdev, but is gradually winding down its transport assets in order to focus on its utilities solutions business.

Gilroy is an engineering graduate from Trinity College. He previously held roles in the ESB and Amdahl Ireland.

Gilroy worked as general manager of Dalkia in Ireland before becoming managing director in 2005. During the period from 2002 to 2008 the energy business grew from €14m turnover to €120m.

A former president of the Ireland-France Chamber of Commerce, he is well-known in Irish business circles as a board member of the SEAI and a member of the Ibec national council.

4. Liam Sheedy

Liam Sheedy has swapped hurling success for banking. As manager for the Mid-West Region with Bank of Ireland, he has changed the bainisteoir's kit for a business suit. Sheedy is a former Tipperary hurler who went on to manage his county to All-Ireland Minor glory in 2006 and delivered National League and two Munster titles at senior level before capturing All-Ireland success in 2010. He has since carved out a successful role as a TV pundit.

However, he revealed the pressures of working in amateur sport when he quit his management role, saying it "just isn't sustainable" alongside a full-time job.

Sheedy, along with two backroom staff, left the Tipp management in 2010 after the Portroe man got a promotion at a bank.

"It does take an awful lot of commitment," said the manager who guided Tipp to the Liam MacCarthy. "We're all very busy in our day jobs and 16-hour days as a GAA manager… it just isn't sustainable.

"It's literally a full-time job because what you're trying to instil is a full-time approach in an amateur game. It does take its toll over time."

5. Liam Griffin

Should the GAA require advice on how to run Croke Park Hotel, they need look no further than former Wexford hurler Liam Griffin.

Griffin was manager in 1996 when the Model County last won an All-Ireland.

The Griffin hotel group includes the award-winning Monart Spa Resort along with Hotel Kilkenny and the Ferrycarraig Hotel.

Operating profits at the group last year increased more than threefold, soaring from €621,236 to €2m.

The driving force behind the hotel group for many years, Griffin transferred the vast proportion of his shareholding to his two sons, Michael and Liam Anthony in 2014. His son Michael is group CEO.

Griffin, now 72, retired from active day-to-day management in 2012 but remains chairman of the board.

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