By Damian Dolan
Paul Foley will be ratified as the new president of the Provincial Council of Britain at Saturday’s AGM at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, West London.
Foley is 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.
“It’s a massive, massive honour,” said Foley. “The position itself within the organisation is unbelievable, and to be elected by your peers means an awful lot.
“When I informed the family I was going for it and there was a possibility that I could get it, they were over the moon. Even my sister in Australia.
“I remember the great battles of the 1970s between the likes of Kerry and Dublin, Micko coming on the scene and Heffo’s Army, All Ireland Sundays, the dinner and the minor game being on. It was just a special day.
“If you’ve experienced that then you’ll understand what an honour it is to come into a role like this. It’s an organisation within the fabric of Ireland and it defines who we are.
“I would like to thank everyone who’s supported and helped me to get here.”
Foley joined St. Colmcilles in Cardiff in 2002, initially as a player, before taking up the position of secretary the following year.
He held the position for a year before becoming Gloucestershire County Board secretary in 2004. He also acted as Gloucestershire delegate to Provincial Council of Britain. He stepped down as Gloucestershire secretary in 2011, and the following year became chairman of the board.
He combined that role with provincial council delegate to central council for a year, before stepping down as chair to concentrate on his role as delegate, and avoid any conflict of interest.
He held the position of central council delegate for Britain for five years, and for the last two years he’s also been chair of the provincial council subcommittee for British University GAA.
“I feel that with the experience I’ve gained along the way, and the people who are going to be around me, I can do this job,” said Foley.
“Having held different positions, I’ve got to work with an awful lot of good people over the last few years. There’s a good team of people here, and I’m looking forward to working with them again.
“I want to maintain what’s going on and make sure that games are provided for our members over here.”
Foley has grown up with “GAA in the blood”. Like his father and sister, he played for his hometown club of Castlemitchell in Kildare. His father was also a referee and took charge of the 2007 Kildare SFC final.
After leaving Ireland when he was 19 to attend college, work took him to Cardiff on a six-month contract. Seventeen years on he’s still there and is a lecturer in Chemistry and Chemical Analysis at Cardiff Met University.
“When I first arrived over here I found it quite hard to settle into a new country and in our local club we find a little home-from-home,” said Foley.
“I owe the GAA a lot for helping me fit in over here. It’s a voluntary organisation and as a player you appreciate the volunteers on the sideline who run and organise the games, and it’s only right that you pay that back and allow those coming behind the opportunity to experience what you’ve experienced.”
With several ongoing projects, such as ground developments and the continued good work of the CDA’s in growing Gaelic Games in schools, Foley foresees a smooth transition period with the outgoing team.
“Every county has its own plans and ongoing projects and problems, so it’s a matter of sitting down with the counties so they can work to the best of their abilities. We’re there to help them to do that,” he said.
“I see provincial council as facilitating the counties to do their jobs as best they can, and we can only do that by doing our jobs as best we can, and being the link between the counties over here and the governing body in Dublin.”
Foley also paid tribute to those officers stepping down from provincial council, adding that the GAA in Britain owes an “appreciation” for the commitment they’ve shown.