‘The best sports administrator by some distance’

Former GAA president Nickey Brennan has hailed outgoing director general Páraic Duffy as “by some distance” the best sports administrator in Ireland and beyond over the last decade.

‘The best sports administrator by some distance’

The GAA yesterday confirmed that Monaghan native Duffy will retire from the position on March 31 next year having assumed the role from Liam Mulvihill on February 1, 2008.

Duffy’s initial contract was for seven years before he agreed to a two-year extension prior to this last 14-month term.

Scotstown man Duffy became the 18th Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA having served in the newly-formed role of player welfare manager from January 2007, leaving his full-time role as principal of St Macartan’s College in Monaghan town after 11 years.

He had previously chaired the organisation’s audit, coaching, and games committees, and the Games Administration Committee as well as holding the role of Monaghan chairman.

Brennan, who officially asked him to take the director general role in late 2007, lauded the 66-year-old.

“I remember driving up to Monaghan and asking him if he was up to taking it on and he sure was. It’s a bittersweet day for the GAA because he has made an enormous contribution.

“At the same time, his family life has been hugely affected and at least he can return to normality again. I’m happy for him in that regard. He leaves enormous shoes to fill. He’s shown incredible leadership. By some distance, he’s been the best sports administrator over the last decade in Ireland and I would say globally too.”

Brennan appointed Duffy as player welfare manager at a time when tensions with the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) were at their highest.

“Once he got in, you could see what he brought to the table. His ability, his work ethic, his people skills, his ability to engage with all sections and consider all views. When he applied for the director general’s position, he was never a shoo-in. There was some other good candidates too but he has proven himself as a most capable person who took on greater responsibilities.”

Duffy’s term at the helm saw an incredible swell of change in the GAA, from how it was run to competition changes.

“People wouldn’t give those in Croke Park the credit but Páraic has a very good grasp at what is going on at club level. There were seismic changes in his time and Croke Park is now a very efficiently run administrative organisation that has many wings and more responsibilities than 10 years ago.

“Government legislation such as child welfare demanded that there had to be change. Financial management and the business of raising finances has also changed. Media rights have also developed.

“He has overseen change in the structure of the GAA in many things like the championship. He has had obvious impact on that and if he felt Congress was moving in a direction that was detrimental to the GAA he would be very quick to stand up and bang the table in a metaphorical sense. He would never sit idly by.

“I think whenever his counsel was heard it was always well heeded. He was never on an ego trip.”

Duffy yesterday notified Central Council and the Management Committee of his decision.

“I am privileged to have had the opportunity to serve as Ard Stiúrthóir for the past 10 years,” he said in a statement. “I would like to express my thanks to the four GAA presidents with whom I have worked, Nickey Brennan, Christy Cooney, Liam Ó Neill, and Aogán Ó Fearghail, to the members of Central Council, Management Committee and other national committees, to our staff in Croke Park, and to officials, volunteers, and staff at provincial, county and club levels for their constant support and encouragement.

“I look forward to working with Uachtarán Aogán Ó Fearghail and Uachtarán-tofa John Horan on a range of projects over the next few months.”

Paying tribute, Ó Fearghail said of Duffy: “Páraic Duffy’s vision, energy, integrity and fairness have been key to the Association’s growth over the past decade; his contribution has been immense.”

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