Historic day for Kennedy and Cork GAA

Tracey Kennedy of Killeagh GAA made history yesterday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the Cork County Board convention, becoming the first female chairperson of the board, writes Michael Moynihan.

Historic day for Kennedy and Cork GAA

Describing her election as “a huge honour”, Kennedy said she would not be making promises a la Donald Trump to “Make Cork GAA Great Again — Cork GAA is already great”.

In her speech to the convention — which was greeted with a standing ovation — Kennedy thanked those who had elected her as chairperson, adding: “It is not I who have made history, but you, the clubs. Six years ago you elected me PRO and three years as vice-chair.”

Kennedy added: “My way has been paved by Liz Howard, the first woman elected to a county board; Mary Fitzgibbon, who was the first female secretary of Killeagh GAA club; and Roisin Jordan, the first chair of any county board.

“I acknowledge the many women contributing hugely at club level and urge them to consider moving on to divisional level and above. There’s no point in being the first if you’re the only.”

The Killeagh club woman went on to quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court — that women belong in all places where decisions are being made — adding: “We know volunteers are hard to come by, so it makes no sense to exclude half of the population.”

Kennedy went on to say that she wished to deepen the Cork County Board’s relationship with ladies football and camogie, and would like to see them played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Kennedy thanked her family, particularly her mother Helen and late father Paddy, and she paid tribute to her clubmates, such as the late Tom Fitzgibbon, Tom Seward and Junior Scully for their encouragement and support, as well as Willie Ring of the East Cork Board and outgoing county board chairperson Ger Lane for their help over the years.

The Carrigaline Community School teacher called for unity to improve Cork GAA and said members had to stop talking themselves down.

“I won’t be making any Donald Trump-like assertions to Make Cork GAA Great Again — Cork GAA is already great. We need to stop talking ourselves down.

“We have 260 clubs in Cork and we play thousands of games; the service we provide to the community is second to none.

“We brought over €50m in investment to Cork in recent years, and we need to express that pride at every opportunity.

“Like many speakers here today I see many areas of concern. We have some rural clubs which are facing extinction due to lack of numbers, while urban clubs are struggling to attract volunteers to help them.

“Rebel Óg is working well in some aspects, but not so well in some others.

“A number of speakers today have referred to the growing cost of resourcing our county teams. We need to balance the need of our club players and county teams, but that is something no county can solve on its own.

“What we need is unity. We all need to remember — players, administrators, coaches, supporters — that we share one goal, and that is the good of Cork GAA. We must unite to achieve that. We are not the county board, you the clubs are the county board.”

The new chairperson concluded by saying: “I’m making no promises apart from one: I’ll work to the best of my ability for the good of Cork GAA and I hope you support me on my journey.”

Meanwhile, outgoing chairman Ger Lane said the county board’s losses of €326,000 were not sustainable.

Referring to county team expenses, Lane said the figures were “staggering” and had the potential to “cripple the GAA”.

Asking who would pay for “excessive playing gear, strength-and-conditioning coaches, statisticians and psychologists,” Lane added: “Can we continue to pump money into our teams and survive? Most boards are under pressure and the association will need to have a serious debate on this before it’s too late.”

Lane said it was a major disappointment that the Cork footballers had remained in Division 2 and that the team had “struggled all year”. The county hurlers had had a better year, he said, but “losing [manager] Kieran Kingston and most of his backroom [team] was a major disappointment.”

He wished new manager John Meyler and his backroom team the best in 2018.

Lane said that “playing ladies football and camogie in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh when it is suitable and available is something to be encouraged”.

He also acknowledged the help received in refurbishing Páirc Uí Chaoimh and said financing of the stadium was “under control”.

Meanwhile, new vice-chairperson Kevin O’Donovan said that while canvassing, some people had said he was looking for too much change, while others said he wasn’t looking for enough change.

“There are challenges and changes ahead,” said O’Donovan.

“We must raise our game to meet those. The challenges

include fixtures, elitism, money going to the hands of the few when they should go to the hands of the many.

“We must adjust our sails again, the winds of change are there, but we’ll reach our

designation together.”

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