President in waiting
April 09, 2009
In the 125th year since the foundation of the GAA, Youghal native Christy Cooney will take office as the 36th President of the GAA, when GAA Congress takes place in his native county of Cork on April 17th and 18th next. By Cóilín Duffy
Christy Cooney is a hard worker - a quiet man who prefers to let his actions do the talking and if never keen to over step the mark. A considerate man who will undoubtedly bring a fresh approach to the role of GAA President - a man who had 60 votes to spare when he was elected to the position 12 months ago at GAA Congress in Sligo.
Cooney wears his heart on his sleeve and the passion which he showed in his victory speech last April in the North-West has been already replicated in his role as Youghal GAA Club Chairman, as Chairman of the national Games and Development Committee and in the many other roles he has held within the GAA.
It's these qualities which Cooney will bring to the table when he takes over on the evening of Saturday April 18th - and despite the immediate nature of the handover from outgoing President Nickey Brennan to the new incumbent, he is still coy about giving any major detail about his hopes for his term of office and the details of his "new cabinet".
However Cooney has revealed some of the policies and measures he will be concentrating on during his term of office, exclusively to Hogan Stand magazine.
As the date of destiny approaches, Cooney concedes he is 'excited' about taking over the high-profile role.
"I'm absolutely very excited and looking forward to a tremendous three years please God," he said.
"No doubt there will be challenges. The economy is a challenge in itself but not withstanding the GAA is a very strong Association. We are fundamentally strong at Grassroots level which is so important to us.
"At the moment myself and Pauric Duffy are rolling out our new strategy throughout the provinces and I'm putting the finishing touches together to a cabinet of maybe 35 committees for the next three years.
"That's very important because without good people and good committees on board my Presidency can't be successful because no President can do everything on their own. You work with people and that's very important."
He added, "I'm looking forward to working with all Gaels throughout the country."
Outgoing President Nickey Brennan stated recently how he believes he has 'ticked all the boxes' when it comes to achieving the goals he set out for himself at the beginning of his Presidency.
Cooney although not keen to go into specifics outlined some of his goals for the next three years.
"I think you'll have to wait until Congress (to see). I made a decision that I wouldn't annunciate any policy decisions until Nickey was finished his Presidency."
However Cooney added, "But there will be a certain amount of the tried and trusted but there will be a couple of new committees as well which are important to deal with the future of the Association.
"One will be the big challenge we have in Urbanisation and that's going to be a crucial area for us in the next three years and even longer. That committee will be very important along with the National Infrastructure committee which is so important in utilising the funding we have from soccer and rugby in putting facilities in place.
"There will be other committees put in place as well but we'll have to wait until Congress before I reveal those."
Cooney's old role as a Director of FÁS may be cast to one side for the next three years but he sees plenty of similarities between the semi-state training body and the GAA.
"FÁS would be a very strong community based organisation with offices throughout the country and very involved with community programmes and community schemes," he said.
"It's somewhat similar to the GAA and we'd have a certain amount in common."
Integration was a buzz word under Nickey Brennan, and Cooney hopes to strengthen the bond with Ladies Football, Camogie, Handball and Rounders during his term of office.
"We have had great co-operation with Ladies Football, Camogie and Handball," Cooney enthused.
"Handball is a game we want to develop because it's very much a part of our association.
"We look forward to working with all of these associations in the future to make sure we are working as one."
Cooney also believes that the contribution of teachers to the GAA is one that is hugely undervalued.
"People in education at primary, secondary and third level are hugely important to us. We sometimes undervalue the role that teachers have but I can assure you that we appreciate more than ever now the role they are playing and long may that last.
"There are challenges ahead with the economic difficulties and the way things are at the moment, but I think there is an important role for our clubs in the future in supporting what goes on in our schools and that's very important.
"We try to create the strong club-school link which will ensure we try to support the teachers and the clubs and that we also support it through our coaching and games development committees at National, Provincial and County level."
Cooney who chairs that committee nationally says that a new programme has just been rolled out in support of GAA coaches.
"We have just put in place a new coach education system but also have employed some new development officers and there will be a number of new ones appointed in Cork among other places quite shortly.
"They are needed to support the volunteer. Our strong ethos is still the volunteer and we need that. But we need people to put the structures in place and that's why we have to have people on the ground."
Keeping with the education theme Cooney also spoke of his pride for his own county and the GAA Leeside, particularly making reference to the facilities at new Sigerson Cup champions Cork I.T., which are unquestionably the best in the country.
"The facilities in Cork IT are top class and any club or county would be privileged to have facilities like that," Cooney said.
"I think great credit is due to Dr. Brendan Murphy and his colleagues in CIT for the investment they have put into the facilities down there."
Cooney also hailed the contribution of Cork I.T. and U.C.C. to the development of Gaelic Games in Cork.
"They are both absolutely a fundamental part of Cork GAA. Both have participated in the Senior football and hurling Championships and that's very important.
"Cork IT have only participated in the last number of years but UCC have an enormous tradition as part of the Cork Senior football and hurling championships and have been county winners in both codes and have been very successful in fostering our association not only as a club, but also as a college.
"Great credit is due to people like Keith Ricken (CIT) and Des Cullinane (UCC) and the people that work tirelessly within the colleges to make sure they have teams in all grades and also run first year competitions to get people involved and continuing to keep the GAA up as it should be - at the top of college life."
Cooney's vision for the Higher Education GAA sector may be to keep the GAA at the top of the colleges pile in terms of sport, but unquestionably he has that same vision for the Association nationally in the coming years as the fourth Cork man to hold the GAA Presidency.
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