No ordinary President

In the 2012 Connacht Championship, Sligo had a decisive win over New York, a team that had not trained collectively before the encounter; hence no home team photo! New York have come a long way since and a win for the ‘Big Apple’ in this preliminary round is becoming more likely with each passing year.

 ‘No fairy-tale for New York’ was the headline in the Irish Times when the same two sides did battle, in a much closer encounter, in 2017. In 2018 the Leitrim supporters had to endure a nail biting period of extra time before being declared ‘winners alright.’ While no one would begrudge the City their victory; the logistics of such an outcome would appear challenging to say the least. However the local association is nothing if not confident and is demanding inclusion in any proposed two-tier championship as well as being prepared to back up that demand by insisting that New York GAA would bear the, not inconsiderable, costs of travel when the ‘games begin.’ This confidence is well founded as evidenced by Rocklands GAA Club the owners of a fine modern freehold property with playing fields and a state-of-the-art club house. The provision of such facilities would be considered a major achievement in Ireland where real estate prices, despite our best efforts, have not yet rivalled those of this east coast city.

While a win by New York over a team from the ‘auld sod’ would not be as fantastic an idea as once perceived the notion that the City would provide a President for the Association was considered, if indeed contemplated at all: more fantasy than fairy-tale but at the 2020 congress held in Croke Park that’s exactly what happened. Larry McCarthy, a Cork native who has acted in various roles in Sligo GAA NY, was deemed elected, Uachtarán tofa on the 4th count and will become the association’s 40th president in twelve months. It is no exaggeration to state that this feat by Laurence is a ‘game changer.’

The Western Development Commission (WDC) took the astute decision in 2012 to use the Sligo v New York fixture to promote the catchment area of Connacht, Clare and Donegal in Ireland as a place to live and do business. Larry McCarthy the then Chairperson of Sligo GAA, NY immediately saw the benefit of this small but important project and enlisted the help of Peter Ryan, Consulate general for Ireland at the time and presently Ambassador to New Zealand. This author was given speaking opportunities, interviewed on radio and assisted as much as possible in the promotion of the LOOKWEST.ie website in the limited time available to a ‘dual player;’ Sligo PRO and WDC Board member.

With a PhD in sports management it would appear that Professor Laurence is well qualified for his new role but his ability to immediately grasp the importance of what the WDC were and are achieving in the west of Ireland is something that impressed me at the time and gives me the confidence to predict that this will be no ordinary presidency.  Gerald O’Connor