New Provincial Council of Britain president Noel O’Sullivan says he’ll make gaining full recognition from Sport England, for the GAA over here, one of his main priorities.
Such an acknowledgment would open the door to greater levels of funding from the organisation, to GAA clubs and county boards in Britain.
It would enable clubs or counties, with their own grounds and a long lease, to apply for funding to upgrade or refurbish sport facilities.
O’Sullivan also wants to get the province’s clubs and county teams back playing, but only as soon as it’s possibly safe to do so.
His appointment as successor to outgoing provincial president Paul Foley was ratified on Friday at the Council’s 2020 Convention.
A Kerry-native, from Spa GAA club in Killarney, O’Sullivan was chairperson of the London county board for four years (2012 to 2015), either side of which he enjoyed stints as provincial council delegate.
O’Sullivan was elected provincial council vice-president in 2018.
A longstanding member of St Kiernan’s GAA club in London, he has a strong background in youth development.
He is a past chair of the All-Britain Competition – the largest annual festival of underage GAA on these shores – and was chairperson of the London minor board.
His involvement with the London minor and county boards goes back to 1989.
He was secretary of the Geraldine’s club (now defunct) for many years, and formed Holloway Gaels’ underage set-up.
The provincial council’s new vice-president is Lancashire’s Sean Hopkins, who immediately tweeted that he “can’t wait to get going”.
A founding member of St Peter’s in Manchester, Hopkins edged a close vote with Diarmuid Walsh (Hertfordshire) and Mark McLoughlin (Warwickshire).
Hopkins won 21-12 against Walsh, after McLoughlin was eliminated on the first count.
A former chairperson of the Lancashire county board – he did two spells in the role – Hopkins has also served as its provincial council delegate.
— Official Warwickshire GAA (@warwickshireclg) January 30, 2021
He enjoyed championship success with St Peter’s as a player and manager, and was involved in the club’s All-Britain titles victories of 2004, 2010 and 2012.
In 2024, Manchester-born Hopkins will become just the provincial council’s third English-born president, after Tommy Walsh (1964-66) and Sean McInerney (1940-42 and 1946-48), both of whom were born in Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Frank Dillon (Hertfordshire) was elected unopposed to the position of provincial council secretary.
Warwickshire’s Michael Walker takes over as treasurer from Kieran Gleeson (Lancashire), who steps down after three years.
Gleeson was nominated for the role of Central Council delegate, but incumbent Iggy Donnelly (London) retained that position after a vote.
The job of PRO – vacated by Kevin McDonagh after his three-year term – was taken by fellow Gloucestershire man Paul McNicholas. He won a very close vote with Michael Collins (Warwickshire) and George O’Rourke (Lancashire).
McNicholas took it 21-14 against O’Rourke on second count votes.
Congratulations to Lancashire’s own Sean Hopkins on his election to Vice Chairperson of provincial council https://t.co/Ij6uLITezN
— LancsGAAofficial (@lancsGAAofficia) January 29, 2021
On the pitch, the Council reflected on a year like no other which saw events cancelled across all seven of its counties due to Covid-19.
They included the All-Britain Competition, Northern Games and the Hertfordshire School Games Schools tournament, as well as provincial and county competitions.
And then there were the colossal efforts of the Council – as part of the Gaelic Games Council of Britain alongside the LGFA and Camogie Britain – to facilitate a safe return to games by September, only for a spike in coronavirus cases to bring the season to a close in November, with the second national lockdown.
There was also praise for the way GAA clubs across the province of Britain, and their members, reacted with “empathy, generosity and kindness” to help those in need within their local communities.
In doing so, they highlighted the “very best” of the GAA’s volunteering ethos, said outgoing secretary Karl McGuigan in his report to Convention.
McGuigan went on to praise outgoing president Paul Foley for his “immense” efforts to “reposition the Council”. He said he leaves it in a “better place”.
And for his “stoic approach” in “rebuilding the bridges” with Sport England, and other associations, which “had been lost in earlier dealings”.
McGuigan went on to say that the Council now knows why previous applications to Sport England for grassroots funding failed – and have received “sound advice” to help ensure the next application is successful.
That application will fall to O’Sullivan and the next committee.
Some of those who passed away in 2020 were remembered. Tadhg Meehan, who died in February, was a patron, former secretary and treasurer of the Council.
Also remembered was Sean Reid – London’s provincial council delegate – who passed away in April.