Tuesday 16 January 2018

Stay out of limelight and abolish committees, Aoghan

New president should keep a low profile and abolish half the committees in Croke Park

Aoghan O Fearghail - who will take office as GAA president next week - alongside Peter Robinson MLA and GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy at the 2012 McKenna Cup final. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Aoghan O Fearghail - who will take office as GAA president next week - alongside Peter Robinson MLA and GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy at the 2012 McKenna Cup final. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

Do you know who the president of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is? Thought not. Try the president of the FAI - no joy there. Okay, what about the president of the Golfing Union of Ireland? Another blank stare. And the Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland ? Haven't a clue.

Strange, isn't it, that even though these bodies represent some of the largest sports in Ireland, very few people know who their leaders are?

But if I ask you who the president of the GAA is, anyone with a passing interest in sport will be familiar with the name Liam O'Neill.

The Laois man will vacate his position next Saturday at the Annual Congress in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.

GAA presidents in modern times have assumed reputations of national proportions far exceeding any other sporting body, and one wonders why.

Certainly the GAA is the largest sporting organisation in Ireland, but that alone scarcely warrants the publicity and fame attached to the office.


The most likely reason is that the GAA president is nowadays a full-time position, not in financial terms but because he obtains leave of absence from his normal occupation to spend all his time working at GAA activities for his three-year term.

It is but one on many strange things about GAA administration.

Although they are amateurs in their own organisation, GAA leaders have proven remarkably capable of speaking in public on any or all issues relating to their sport, and maybe that is why they become so well known.

The president of the IRFU, for example, hardly ever makes a public statement, but the president of the GAA seems to be required to speak to all media outlets at the drop of a hat at any hour of the day or night.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing is a matter of opinion but it certainly catapults the GAA president to the same level of media recognition as a Taoiseach.

It is into this environment that a man who has scarcely registered on the national media ratings up to now, Aoghan O Fearghail, will step on Saturday afternoon, when he succeeds O'Neill as president of the GAA.

And while it may take a little while for the Irish version of his name, which he always uses, to become familiar in Irish life, there is no doubt it will be become so.

As a matter of interest, the most recent president to mostly use the Irish version of his name was Paddy McFlynn from Down back in 1979.

Aoghan is a native of the parish of Drumgoon, near Cootehill in Cavan and has followed the traditional route to the top through being an officer holder of the five available positions in the Ulster Council of the GAA.

I know he needs no advice from people like me as he steps into the hot-seat but that won't stop me from doing so!

I hope the first thing he will do is abolish at least half of the committees now existing in the Croke Park administrative structures. There seems to be about 40 committees in Croke Park, and many of these change with the arrival of a new president.


That's far too many when we consider that each provincial council and county board also has a shoal of committees.

The GAA is swamped with large committees. I reckon five people should be enough to form any committee.

The same people inevitably are involved in several different committees and some are 'lifers' who send up to 50 years on various committees. Obviously they are not interested in watching television in their own sitting-rooms. . .

I am not so sure that Aoghan O Fearghail should be so fond of talking to the media as his immediate predecessors. The reality is there cannot be suitable material to warrant a president speaking out several times a week as the GAA has already got an excellent public relations officer in Alan Milton and a high-profile PR department to back him up.

Maybe the president needs to say less in public.

Anyway, every GAA person will wish the new president good luck in the three rough years that like ahead.

As a Cavan man we know that he will certainly not be wasting the GAA's money and it is interesting that the two top people in the GAA, the president and director general Paraic Duffy, were born only a big stone's throw away from each other in Monaghan and Cavan.

By the way, these counties meet in the first round of the Ulster championship on May 24 - just to keep the pot boiling!


Needless fixture clashes with rugby will hit counties in pocket

The ongoing debate in GAA circles as to whether big games that clash with rugby internationals should be fixed regardless will really re-open next Sunday, with a list of 12 National Football League fixtures down for decision at 2.00pm.

This includes the very attractive game between Kerry and Dublin.

Ireland-England rugby game kicks off at 3.0 in the Aviva Stadium, while the Gaelic football games will not finish until around 3.30.

Expect a mad stampede from GAA venues around that time, but would it not have made a bit more sense to have moved the games forward so that more sports fans of both codes would have been happier?

GAA county boards will take a severe hit by failing to reschedule on the day as many people who would normally go to support their own county will opt to watch the rugby game instead as Ireland boss Joe Schmidt targets a third straight Six Nations win.

It's not rocket science - the GAA could either fix matches for 12.45 or 1.0 throws-in, or indeed look at Saturday evening games.

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