By David Hennessy
GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail was a very special guest as London GAA launched their partnership with Irish TV. The Irish World reported recently that London GAA had agreed the naming rights for the redeveloped Ruislip stadium with the TV station with the home of London GAA to be known as Irish TV Grounds, Ruislip from it’s reopening next year.
Speaking to the crowd at the June 15 launch night, Aogán said: “The new redeveloped Ruislip will be a beacon, it will be wonderful. It will be something that people of Irish heritage and people of no irish heritage will be happy to come to.
“It’s going to be very special because Irish TV are part of. They know that wherever the Irish go, we go there too. I’ve travelled a lot of the world and no matter where I go, I meet other television stations but most other television stations only meet you where there are numbers, crowds but I meet Irish TV everywhere. They are always with you – in the small places, for the small man, for the big man, for the little people, for the ‘cois muintir na tire’ and I congratulate Irish TV for their acknowledgement of the ‘plain people’, as Seán Ó Riordain the poet said – ‘cois muintir na tire seo’ – the ordinary plain people of Ireland. Thank you Irish TV for standing side-by-side with me and the GAA. We are delighted to have you as partners.”
Irish TV CEO Pierce O’Reilly spoke of Irish TV’s ethos being centred around family, community, club and county, whether it is county Mayo or London county.
Pierce, who has played inter-county hurling and football for Mayo as well as New York, said: “I come to this partnership with my heart and with my head.
“I spent three years living in New York and I witnessed the effort, the passion, the determination and the drive that managers, supporters and players were putting in at Gaelic Park in New York to keep our culture, to keep our sport and to keep our heritage.”
Pierce said that despite the good work being done in New York GAA, no broadcasters were interested in covering it: “We saw a niche in the market. Everywhere we went in Ireland, everywhere we went around the world: We saw ordinary Irish people doing something extraordinary. It could be extraordinary in business, extraordinary in sport but it certainly was extraordinary in their community and in every single club in London there are extraordinary people, many of them in this room tonight.
“We want to support London GAA and to support Aogán Ó Fearghail and Croke Park and this is our plan, this is only step one, because we know the work that has taken place here down through the years and the legacy.
“This was a safe place to come. It was a place where you met friends, where you got work and it was a place where you could keep your culture and your sport alive. That is exactly what we want Irish TV to be as well, we want it to be a home away from home.
“It’s our goal to build the relationship with the GAA. We know we have something that will benefit the GAA, not just here in the UK but at home as well and I hope that our commitment and investment in London GAA will highlight again to Aogán and to the guys in Croke Park ‘these guys are serious about what they’re doing, they’re coming to us with the right attitude and they’re also coming to it with their heart and their head’.
London Chairman Noel O’Sullivan thanked the visiting President Aogán Ó Fearghail for speaking up for London when Shane Curran dismissed them on The Sunday Game.
Responding to this, Aogán said: “When you’re President of the GAA, you get drawn into controversy and I did get drawn into recent controversy in relation to pundits and what they say. I don’t mind repeating it.
“When you attack a member of the GAA, that is no harm, we don’t mind that but other members of the panel should also defend that but when everyone on the panel stays silent and nobody says anything, that’s wrong.
“All I said was that it was very wrong that on the Sunday Game, London GAA were dismissed, that they shouldn’t be there, they’ve no right to be there, nobody else said anything, the moderator said nothing.
“ All I did was, as President of the GAA, say that was wrong. And that is wrong. It should never be that London should be dismissed. London have as much right to be part of the All-Ireland championship as any other county. Whether you win or lose, you have a right to be here and you will always be part of the GAA for the simple reason you belong. You are part of Ireland, part of the GAA and we will always support, regardless of other people’s opinions.”
Also in attendance were John Griffin, the businessman who has backed Irish TV from its beginning, Mick Crossan, the President of London Irish Rugby Club, whose Powerday (of which Mick is Chairman) are the new sponsors of London Ladies. There were also representatives from MP Moran, the new sponsors of London youths.