President-Elect Liam O’Neill took the opportunity of using his acceptance speech at the Mullingar Annual Congress to cover some of the areas of the GAA that he particularly cherishes and will ‘major on’ during his Presidency. Clearly “The Club” will be ‘all important’ in encouraging families to participate at some level in their local club ,be it as a player, an administrator or volunteer or supporter.
“I don’t intend to nor would it be right to deal with policy matters here tonight. What’s important to me is my family, my club, my school and my community and I want to share with you how these impact on me in my personal life and my GAA life.
The family is where it all begins and ends for us all and I would like to acknowledge the part my families have played in bringing me to this point tonight.
My wife Áine is probably the best known partner of a GAA Presidential Candidate. I have been involved in GAA administration for 36 six years and Áine and I go back 37 years. We met in first year in UCD and she has been with me in every game I played and every administrative involvement I have had in this organisation starting with being Secretary of UCD hurling club. She brings her own unique perspective to our games and it took her son Ciarán a long time to get her to understand that Mid-Field in most people’s view was across the field. Aine always saw it as down the centre. Being a “Down the centre” type of man myself I knew where she was coming from.
As I have mentioned our son Ciarán is a hurler. Caoimhe is still a Camogie player and Clíodhna very early in life opted for the role of “Hurler on the ditch” or Supporter as she might view it. The support of all four has been central to all I have done in my adult life and I can never thank them enough for their inspiration and love.
As a school teacher, he sees the local schools and colleges continuing to play a major role in the GAA of the future and devoted a significant part of his speech on the importance of schools.
On the importance of the Club to the GAA said : “
“My club Trumera has always been a very central part of my adult life. I was 15 when it was formed and I am delighted that so many of the members have come along here tonight to celebrate with me as have some friends from neighbouring clubs. Thank you all for your loyalty and support. Like in so many small communities I was reared with, and by my community. We are based in a small townsland with 50 houses and a population of less than 150 people. Almost all of the males have at one time or another played for Trumera. We have to make teams from players other clubs would waste. One year with only 35 players at our disposal we fielded three teams at Intermediate and junior C level in Hurling and at Junior C Football team. We won the intermediate and junior football competitions. In that same year I had to stand in goal for the second team just two weeks after a hernia operation. I have never attended a second team game since.
I hope you can now see why I have an affinity with the smaller units in our Association and understand their unique challenges”.
On community spirit within the GAA family:-
“I come from a strong and united family, I was brought up in a wonderful community. I’m fortunate to work in a building that houses so many intimate family memories. I come from a place I love and would be loath to leave. Each of these has given me a quiet inner confidence which I hope to bring with me to the leadership of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. I salute all who have gone before me and helped me on my way. Included in that group are, the people of Trumera and the people of Laois, Michael Delaney Michael Reynolds and all my friends in The Leinster Council and the many personal friends who have backed me in good times and in the not so good times”.
Is it a good thing that Liam was “unopposed” one wondered:-
“Some people have expressed the view that it might be bad for me or for the Association that I have been elected unopposed. (I do think myself that the word “unanimously” has a better ring to it than has the word unopposed.) If the role I’m taking on was viewed by me as a right to govern then the matter of a mandate might be relevant. I view this role as a role of service to a wonderful Association. Service needs no mandate and I will be pleased to serve you all happy in the knowledge that I have your support.”
Expansion of the GAA perhaps especially in view of the number of players who have recently emigrated, and the hundreds, if not thousands, likely to follow in the difficult times ahead:?
“We are facing into interesting times. I hope we can remain strong in our support of the values we hold dear. I spent some time yesterday with representatives of our GAA units from around the world and it was great to hear the term “The Global GAA” being coined. In a time when others speak of doom and gloom it was refreshing to hear people talk confidently of development and expansion.
I want to help to facilitate that optimism.”
After many GAA controversies in recent years, President-Elect O’Neill spoke of his desire to bring back ‘fun’ to Gaelic Games .
“ At times lately we have begun to take things too seriously at the expense of the fun side of being involved in the GAA. I want to do the important things well but I want people to enjoy being part of our wonderful organisation.
I know some of you are thinking that its odd that a person with a reputation for seriousness should be saying this but I put it to you that if a person who loathes elections could be elected without an election then it’s not beyond the bounds that a former serious person could help put a smile on the faces of others.
I thank you for your support. I intend to enjoy serving you all as Uachtarán Tofa and ultimately as Uachtarán.”