Loftus, Dr. Mick

January 01, 2001

Former GAA President Mick Loftus
In the true meaning of the much-hackneyed phrase, Mayoman Dr. Mick Loftus has done that, been there and worn the jersey over the course of over 50 years involvement at the highest levels of the GAA. His enthusiasm and passion for Gaelic games is as vital as ever as we discover. Within the claustrophobic world that is the higher echelons of Gaelic games administration, Dr. Mick Loftus is very well got - as they say in the vernacular. He's even more well got around his native Crossmolina in County Mayo both within and outwith his medical practice and GAA involvement. Despite the fact that he has worn so many hats for so many years in the world of GAA and beyond, it's amazing that you don't hear a bad word said about the genial Mayo gael. Given the fact that he has been President of the GAA and a lifelong member of his native Deel Rovers, he must have thread on as few corns as is humanly possible. Why, even journalists haven't a bad word to say about him! So we know how the well-known is regarded by all sundry who come into contact with him. But what's he best known for? Is it as the GAA's former top man, as Chairman of the Seanoiri - the Masters competition organising committee - as the champion of the movement to separate Gaelic games from all things pertaining to alcohol? Perhaps its for his days as All-Ireland finals referee or as the captain of a Mayo All-Ireland winning junior team. Either way, Mick Loftus has long since been identified with everything that has been positive and uplifting about the country's biggest sporting organisation. For the moment, Mick's involvement in the hierarchical GAA matters is confined to his role as President of the Connacht Council. Even after all these years, he still fails to tire from bread-and-butter meetings on behalf of the Association. He is also, of course, still a Deel Rovers clubman. In the days that are in it, being a gael from Crossmolina does tend to see you share the limelight. So how does Mick think the locals will do against Bellaghy in their forthcoming All-Ireland club championship set-to? "Bellaghy have emerged as winners of the Ulster club championship so they must be a very good team. Any side that comes out as winners of a competition involving defending champions Crossmaglen must be a top class team and so I expect Crossmolina to have to be at their best to progress to the final. "The current crop of Crossmolina seniors are a good bunch of dedicated and committed players and they give a lot of their time to the club. They deserve all the success they've achieved so far and hopefully there's more success to come for them. "Winning the Connacht club title last year gave everyone involved with Crossmolina a great lift and fair play to everyone who has been involved in bringing on so many talented underage players since the late eighties and before that," adds Mick who was suitably impressed by Crossmolina's victory over Corofin in this year's provincial decider. Then again, a lot of things about the GAA locally and nationally continue to impress Mick. The ongoing success story that is the Over 40s hurling and football competitions - his brainchild - is one which gives him much pleasure. "The success of the Masters competition has exceeded all my expectations. I never thought it would be nearly as successful as it has been. "I know there has been some criticism that some counties have taken things too seriously but my feeling on that is that like all good competitions, it has that competitive edge which adds so much interest and generates so much excitement and enjoyment for players and spectators alike. "I've been particularly pleased by the degree of comradeship and fitness which the Over 40s has fostered among the players since its inception. "I've been really delighted by the way the idea has grown and developed since it was first introduced in Mayo. In this regard, I have to pay credit to Seamus Meade in Croke Park. He has really been the engine which has driven the competition forward at such speed and with such success." It's easy to understand where Mick was coming from when he instigated the establishment of the Masters Competition on a nationwide basis back some ten years ago. Like all passionate, enthusiastic footballers, he yearned to extend his playing career but with no Masters competition to wean him off the big ball game, he was left to take up refereeing. It wasn't a bad substitute at all. Mick was a natural at blowing the whistle and he was recognised as such by being appointed to referee the All-Ireland senior football finals in 1965 and '68 in which Galway and Down triumphed. Before that, he excelled as a player in his beloved green and red. In 1947, he was on the Crossmolina senior team which won the club's first county championship title, a team captained by the great Sean Tansey of Sligo fame. Two years earlier, he collected a junior medal. On the county front, he featured on the Mayo minor team which had a fascinating tussle with an Eddie Devlin-powered Tyrone side in 1947. Junior All-Ireland medals followed in 1950 and again in '57, the latter occasion a time when Mick captained the team. The affable, dyed-in-the wool GAA man was a players' player in his time and, accordingly, it's not surprising that he says modern day players deserve to be looked after for all the commitment and effort they put into the game. In this regard, it's significant that he is Chairman of the Green and Red Trust which seeks to help out players with financial assistance at times of need. Here, he has a special word of praise for Secretary Johnny Mulvey. "It's meant for players who fall into difficulty in their private lives and was started in 1988 by former Mayo player Seamus Daly. "When you see how people make lifetime friends from being involved in the GAA and the great camaraderie that develops between them, it shows just how fellas can get all wound up in connection with their own team, give each other a torrid time at matches but then end up as friends for life. The Green and Red Trust is a means of simply saying thank-you for people's efforts in forging this sort of camaraderie," adds Mick, a member of the GAA's national medical committee which has an advisory role with regard to players' fitness, injuries, etc. One of the leading lights in the Dothain organisation which seeks to address the whole area of alcohol abuse, Mick's views on the influence drinks companies have in the world of sport are well known, suffice to say that he isn't in favour of the Guinness sponsorship of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship "but the majority thought otherwise." The successor to Paddy Buggy as President of the GAA in 1985, Mick has been credited - along with current Director General Liam Mulvihill - as having been responsible for sowing the seeds of the recent and ongoing development of Croke Park. Mick was part of a delegation from the GAA which visited stadia in New York and London back almost 20 years ago. But what was the highlight of his time as President? "It was a tremendous experience all told but I think visiting so many clubs around the country was particularly nice because it gave me the opportunity to really see how things were going at grass roots level. "I met some very interesting and hard working people on those trips around the country. It has been a great source of pleasure to me to see how so many clubs have since progressed to acquiring their own grounds. Back in 1984, only about half of the clubs in the country owned their own grounds." And the spectre of Croke Park opening its facilities to other sports? "I can see the difficulties which the GAA may experience in the years to come with regard to the upkeep and financing of Croke Park and the fact that it may only ever be full for semi-finals and finals. However, it will be up to people at the helm in the distant future to decide."

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