At Sunday’s GAA Handball Congress at the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells, Co. Meath, Walter O’Connor will take up the reigns as GAA Handball President, and the former national and world champion has massive plans for the perfect game over the coming three years.
The next two years could be the most defining in the history of Irish handball, with the world championships looming in 2012.
“I have played the sport since I was four years of age and love it with a passion,” says Meath native, O’Connor. “The likes of ‘Ducksy’ Walsh and Tom Sheridan came to me and asked me to run for the presidency last year because they felt that someone with an entrepreneurial vision, plus knowledge of the game, of the politics and officialdom, would help to move things forward.
“I’m trying to bring a business-like structure to the organisation, dedicated to targets and goals, to financing, to branding and to branding awareness; I definitely want to foster a closer link to the GAA and give the sport a higher profile.”
Amongst the highlights of his own handball career were beating his long-time tormentor Walsh to win the senior singles All-Ireland final in 1998. He had lost five times to the Kilkenny legend before that, so even though he had conquered the world by this stage, it was a major weight off his shoulders.
That same year, he became only the second player in the history of Gaelic handball – and the first in 33 years – to win all four 60×30 titles, a feat that ensures his place in the pantheon of the game forever more.
O’Connor has big plans for the game, and that master plan starts next Sunday in Kells, when officially takes over from outgoing President, Tony Hannon.
“The world championships in 2012 can be the launching pad for us and I want us to be ready to be in a position to make the best of the opportunity. That mission begins this Sunday.”