Historic day for Longford on Saturday

On a day when votes will be counted up and down the country, one man knows he’s assured of election on Saturday next when Martin Skelly takes over as chairperson of Leinster GAA.

On a day when votes will be counted up and down the country, one man knows he’s assured of election on Saturday next when Martin Skelly takes over as chairperson of Leinster GAA.

The Cashel clubman’s proud day will mark just the second time in the province’s history that a Longford man has been elected to the position in Leinster Council’s 111-year history, a feat not lost on Skelly as he spoke to the Leader this week.

“I think it’s a great honour, not only for me, but a great honour for the county. It’s not as much a tribute to me, but to the association in both my own club and in Longford as well. I see it as an honour to be given the opportunity.

“I always admired what Albert Fallon (Leinster Chair from 93-96) achieved at national level, as well as other Longfordians. Longford has a great record of people getting an opportunity – Liam Mulvihill, Peter McKenna and Albert Fallon. They have been great mentors and tutors to me over the years and have helped me in some way or another,” he said.

Martin secured the position three years ago in Wexford, following a close-fought vote, and having been vice-chairperson since then, it has given the former Longford Chairperson a good grounding in what lies ahead for the next three years.

“It’s a great induction period and I’ve learned an awful lot about how Leinster Council operates on a daily basis. I’d be very aware of the sheer size and the volume of clubs (550), schools and GAA communities in Leinster,” said Martin.

His time as vice-chair has also given him an opportunity to identify the issues that he will be tackling during his time in office.

“There are massive challenges facing the association and in the next three years finance will be an issue and we have to look at ensuring that all our units stay afloat,” he said, with a special sub-committee set up to deal with clubs in financial difficulty.

“Obviously, we will have to learn to be more prudent and go back to the basic principles which were the core of the association 20-25 years ago,” he added.

He said the GAA will also attempt to tackle social integration in rural areas, look at improving child protection and look at the area of alcohol and substance abuse.

Respect for referees is another area Martin intends to tackle, with a taskforce to be established, chaired by former inter-county referee John Bannon.

A taskforce will also set-up to address the needs of hurling, particularly in the weaker counties.

Delegates will begin to gather at lunchtime ahead of the convention which gets underway at 2.30pm. Martin will be formally elected at 4pm, when he will make his maiden speech as chairperson, followed by an address by Mick Casey, chairperson of Cashel GAA club.

Convention will come to a close at 5pm, followed by the first Leinster Council meeting to be chaired by Skelly.

Longford County Council are to honour his appointment with a civic reception in the council chambers at 6.45pm, and later that night, his own club will host a special ‘homecoming’ function in the hall, Newtowncashel at 9pm.

Last year provided Martin with one of his proudest moments when he presented the Leinster Minor trophy to Longford captain Dylan Quinn. Next Saturday will come close to matching that moment, only to be surpassed if he were to present a Leinster trophy to a senior team.

“It would be a dream come true to get an opportunity to present the Leinster senior trophy to Longford. I believe there is an excellent team and if they continue to display the commitment and spirit they showed in Enniskillen on Saturday night, it’s not such a wild dream,” he said, referring in particular to the two minor titles in recent years.