Sunday 17 December 2017

GAA world pays tribute to progressive Boothman

Ó Fearghail: 'Boothman served GAA with distinction'

Jack Boothman, former President of the GAA. Picture Jim O'Kelly
Jack Boothman, former President of the GAA. Picture Jim O'Kelly
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The former GAA president Jack Boothman, whose death was announced yesterday, held the position during one of the GAA's most progressive periods of reform.

Boothman, the first protestant to hold the office of GAA president, served for three years between 1994 and '97 and oversaw the opening of the new Cusack Stand, the first sponsorship of the Hurling Championship by Guinness and the introduction in 1995 of regular live TV games outside of All-Ireland finals and semi-finals.

On Boothman's watch, Offaly, Clare and Wexford were All-Ireland champions during a glorious renaissance for the game of hurling.

The first tentative steps towards inter-county teams getting a second chance in championship also came in during his term when the 1996 Congress passed a vote to allow the losers of the Munster and Leinster hurling finals to re-enter at the All-Ireland quarter-final stages.

This was the initial catalyst for the championship systems that are in place to this day.

Boothman gave his support to the repeal of Rule 21 which debarred members of the British security forces from being members of the association.

This controversial rule was eventually abolished in 2001 but Boothman had regrets that it hadn't happened in his time, the Wicklow native making that point in his final address to the 1997 Congress.

But for all the reform that took place in those three years he was more conservative in his approach after that, notably being one of the main opponents to changes to the then Rule 42 which paved the way for Croke Park to open up to international sports.

Boothman, a resident of Blessington, served as chairman of the west Wicklow board, vice-chairman of Wicklow County Board and chairman of Leinster Council during which much progress was made in the province on a new model for underage games.

Boothman was generally a popular president who made strong friendships with many players of that era.

In 1996 he set up a sub-committee on the association's amateur status after the emergence of Pro Active, a sports agency that former Dublin footballer and Irish soccer international Kevin Moran was involved in.

The current GAA president Aogán ó Fearghail paid tribute to one of his predecessors yesterday.

"Jack Boothman was a man I considered to be a friend and he served the GAA with distinction," said ó Fearghail. "I had the privilege of knowing him since the 1980s and have very fond memories of attending an Irish language course with him and Joe McDonagh in the Meath Gaeltacht of Rath Cairn. He was great company.

"He had great interest in the club and the last conversation I had with him recently he told me, 'Don't forget about the clubs'.

"On behalf of the Association as a whole, I would like to offer my condolences to his wife Nuala and his extended family and his wide circle of friends."

Irish Independent

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