50-year wait for All Ireland winner’s medal ends for Iggy
By Damian Dolan
Fifty years after helping Tyrone win their one and only All Ireland Junior Football Championship, Iggy Donnelly was finally presented with his winner’s medal.
GAA President Aogán O’Fearghail did the honours at last weekend’s Gala Dinner, presenting Mr Donnelly with his medal alongside President-elect John Horan, at the House of Commons to mark the Provincial Council of Britain’s 90th Anniversary. Britain GAA President Sean Hackett described the presentation as the “highlight” of the night.
Mr Donnelly helped Tyrone reach the junior final in 1968, but missed out on playing in the final after being called up to represent the Tyrone senior team in the Ulster Championship.
That ruled the St Brendans man out of playing in the junior final at Croke Park, which Tyrone went on to win, beating London in the final by 3-8 to 0-7.
But that was rectified on Saturday with Mr Donnelly becoming the first Gael to be presented with an All Ireland medal in the House of Commons, as well as the oldest GAA member aged 72.
Honoured to attend @BritishGAA dinner in @UKParliament last night. Historic and moving occasion as @uachtaranclg presented an All Ireland medal to Iggy Donnelly. Great speeches by @McHughJoeTD @uachtaranclg and @mrseanhackett. Delighted to meet so many of GAA family in GB. pic.twitter.com/PkxNIlDYBi
— Adrian O’Neill (@AdrianGONeill) January 28, 2018
“All good things come to those who wait,” said Mr Hackett, who was instrumental in obtaining the medal. “It obviously meant a lot to Iggy and he got a standing ovation. It was very special.
“That represented to me the very essence of what the Provincial Council is about. It’s about its members, caring for people and recognition.”
Mr Donnelly played senior for Tyrone the following year before moving to London at the end of 1969.
He did help London to Junior All Ireland success in 1971, but never got to play in Croke Park, as the final that year was played at New Eltham in London.
Joining Gaels from across Britain at the Gala Dinner were Ulster Provincial Council President Michael Hasson and secretary Brian McAvoy.
They were joined by Ireland ambassador to Britain Adrian O’Neill and his wife Aisling, Theresa Grant, Chief Executive Trafford Council, Joe McHugh T.D., St Helens North MP Conor McGinn and Chris Ruane, MP for Vale of Clwyd in Wales.
Mr Hackett added: “The 90th Anniversary is a significant milestone but it only exists, and will continue to exist, because of the volunteers.
“The council is there to serve all of its members; all counties and all clubs. It’s a grassroots organisation, which the provincial council serves, and that strength has insured its survival.”
The Dinner was preceded earlier in the day by the Provincial Council of Britain’s AGM at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, West London, at which Paul Foley was confirmed as its new president. Mr O’Fearghail presented Mr Foley with his presidential pin.
The St Colmcilles clubman, and former Gloucestershire chair and provincial council vice president, will take over from Mr Hackett when his three-year tenure as president comes to an end following next month’s Congress.
Mr Hackett, who was joined at the Dinner by his wife and mum and dad, said: “My wife Jennifer created the space in our family to allow me to do the work of President of Provincial Council for the last three years. It was a huge thing for her to allow me that space.”
Mr Foley was unopposed for the position, having been nominated by all seven counties, as was his successor as provincial council vice president, former London chair Noel O’Sullivan.
Elected unopposed on the day were Karl McGuigan who was named secretary, having fulfilled the role of PRO and central council delegate Mr Donnelly.
Gloucestershire county board chair Kevin McDonagh is the new PRO. The position of treasurer went to a vote with Kieran Gleeson of St Brendan’s elected to the position by 16 votes to Diarmuid Walsh’s (Glen Rovers, Hertfordshire) 13.
Provincial Council of Britain GAA Board
President – Paul Foley (Gloucestershire)
Vice President – Noel O’Sullivan (London)
Secretary – Karl McGuigan (Warwickshire)
Treasurer – Kieran Gleeson (Lancashire) PRO
Kevin McDonagh (Gloucestershire)
Central Council Delegate – Iggy Donnelly (London)