MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Buttimer a GAA man to the core

The week a politician discloses his sexuality to the public, you’d imagine a quiet couple of days would be in order.

Out of sight out of mind. At home with a DVD box-set of The Killing II, a box of chocolate Kimberleys and drawn curtains. That’s how most of us would organise the weekend. We’re in the 21st century, but still.

Given the media focus on Jerry Buttimer after revealing last week he was gay, he’d have been forgiven for staying indoors once he headed back to his Cork constituency last Thursday.

If you thought that, you don’t know the man.

“Stay at home when Cork are playing in a national league final?” says Mr Buttimer.

“Not a chance. I’m a GAA person.”

Mr Buttimer has served as chairman of his club, Bishopstown, as an officer of the Cork County Board, and in a million other ways within the GAA. It’s as big a part of his life as politics.

“My biggest regret in life is that I wasn’t good enough to play senior club or county standard,” he says.

“I love sport and I love Cork. I never thought of missing the national league final — not when someone like Patrick Cronin from my club, a lad I taught in school, is playing for Cork, when others like Shane O’Neill and Ken O’Halloran are also playing for Cork.

“I’m a Cork person who grew up with the GAA. My father brought me to my first Munster final in 1974, and that year was my first visit to Croke Park as well for the All-Ireland semi-final as well. Dublin beat Cork in the senior and Cork beat Wicklow in the minor that day.

“The GAA is who I am — it’s my interest outside of work. To me sport is too important.”

Buttimer did the round of the chat shows on radio and television last week but normality wasn’t long returning. A former chairman would be expected to attend his club’s championship game and with Bishopstown facing Nemo Rangers today, his diary had some obvious inclusions.

“There was a lot of media attention early in the week but I got a lot of support from the club,” he says.

“From all over Cork, from GAA people generally. I made a decision to work away doing what I usually do — chairing the Oireachtas health committee, constituency queries, canvassing on Saturday, the Bishopstown championship game against Nemo on Monday, after the Allianz Hurling League final on Sunday.

“That’s what I do at the weekend, I go to matches. It was a difficult week, an interesting week, but I got a lot of support and encouragement from people.”

He knows not everybody will view the news with a grown-up mindset, and hasn’t ruled out hearing some smart comments down the line.

“I’m sure that’s going to happen. Some of my friends knew my situation, some didn’t, but from Christy Cooney, who rang me last week, to Marty Morrissey, who also got in touch, I’ve had a huge outpouring of affirmation and support in the last week.”

Past officers of the Cork County Board got in touch as well. Some of them would have held diametrically opposed views to Buttimer on many topics, but they picked up the phone and offered their support.

“Lads from a different era,” says Buttimer. “Lads with a different outlook, but they were good enough to support one of their own. I appreciated it.”

So how did it go yesterday? “Well, most of the day went well,” says Buttimer with what a bad novelist would call a rueful laugh.

“Got to Thurles early enough to see Manchester City versus Newcastle, but I caught some of the camogie final as well – Cork won, which was great.

“The hurling game... I suppose you could call it an unpleasant end to a pleasant day. Kilkenny were awesome, you’d have to admire them. They were brilliant.”

Negativity? Any unfriendly comments in and around in Semple Stadium? “Not a bit, a few people said ‘well done’ but most people just said ‘hello’. There was no big deal or anything. The most frequent comment I got was, ‘are we going to win today’, I’m hearing that at GAA matches for 40 years. So no change there. And the weekend isn’t finished yet, of course. Because we had players with Cork yesterday we’re playing football championship on Monday, so I’ll be heading there later on.”

After a week of big changes, some things stay the same.

* Contact michael.moynihan@examiner.ie Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx


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