John Horan named GAA’s top man

by James Hendicott
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NA FIANNA club chairman Cormac Ó Donchú has spoken of the club’s pride at John Horan’s inauguration as Úachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael at the GAA annual congress last Saturday.

Horan is the first man from a Dublin club in 97 years – since Daniel McCarthy held the role in 1921 – to be appointed to the position, and a lifelong member of the Glasnevin club.

He takes over the presidential role at a time which Ó Donchú believes is critical to the future make up of the GAA, and the way in which the organisation tackles, in particular, urban issues around access to playing areas.

Horan’s progress through the organisational ranks at Na Fianna have seen him take on numerous roles, having moved away from simply playing earlier than most.

“He has experience playing for the club from an early age, in both football and hurling,” Ó Donchú told the Dublin Gazette.

“He also moved into the administrative side of the club very early. He was our youngest ever juvenile chairman, getting involved in that side of things before he stopped playing.He fulfilled a range of roles at the club, as a manager, a selector, and as part of the executive committee.

“His coaching skills were important to us over a number of years, in particular around our three in a row [Dublin Senior Football] championships at the turn of the century [the titles were won in 1999, 2000 and 2001].

“He was also involved with a minor team that reached the All Ireland final.

The national media have been focusing on several issues that Horan has raised in the early days of his presidency, ranging from ensuring that future payments payments to club managers are cut out to issues around county development squads.

Ó Donchú has identified a different area he believes will be critical to Horan, however, one that has coloured the less-reported corners of Horan’s early comments in the role.

“Most of the grounds clubs are using right now are being offered on the good grace of educational establishments and religious institutions,” he explains. “Things are changing in those areas, and that access might not last.

“We have 2,700 members and 120 teams at Na Fianna. They play on several different pitches, with our seniors playing at the club at Mobhi Road.

“For a lot of teams we’re totally reliant on the kindness of the Dublin Airport Authority in letting us use their land out by the airport, where there are three pitches.

“A huge number of urban clubs have similar issues.

“We’re a not for profit and we don’t particularly want to acquire land, to gain property for the sake of property. But it’s a huge issue for the GAA right now, and it’s only going to get worse. The existent pressure on local land banks is very concerning.

The entire process, Ó Donchú feels, is part of a wider cultural issue. “There’s pressure on green spaces,” he says.

“It’s fundamentally about whether we want to develop community or buildings. We all know what happened last time we chose buildings. It didn’t end well, and the community was left to pick up the pieces.”

As for the appointment of a Dub to the role after so many years? “I think it’s a reflection of the success and growth of the games in the capital,” Ó Donchú tells us.

“He took an unusual route, too, he’s the first to be appointed from the Leinster council, Presidents usually come from club and county boards.

“Traditionally there might be a rural urban divide, but he seems to have crossed it.

“It was expected to be a close vote, but he got in on the first ballot.”

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