This Friday is a day Pat Cahill is quietly looking forward to.
It’s also a juncture the Carrickedmond clubman is hoping will mark the onset of a new chapter as he gets set to step down as County Board Chairman.
And five years on from assuming the role of Longford’s most senior GAA official, Cahill, by his own admission, cuts a quietly content and optimistic figure.
“My five-year term is up,” he states. “Anybody that comes in as county chairman, would, I’m sure have a plan. And that’s what I did. I organised a plan, Longford GAA Looking Forward, by bringing all the stakeholders in Longford together and producing a five-year plan.”
Half a decade later, most or all of that blueprint, is now in place.
“Hopefully I have left the association in a better place than what it was in before. When I came in, we were playing in Division Three and the structures in place at Pearse Park were slightly different in that we were a full voluntary organisation. In the meantime, we have employed a full time county secretary/games manager and that certainly has left us from an administrative point of view a lot better.”
The importance of the work carried out on a day-to-day basis is something he knows a lot about.
Ever since the age of 16, Cahill has found himself in some form of managerial/secretarial position.
“I have always loved that part, being involved,” he modestly confides, as he looks out on the upper balcony of Pearse Park earlier this week.
“Being in the position of chair there is more to it than just games. You find yourself stuck in administration a lot of the time.”
Whether it’s in terms of providing leadership or instilling a more businesslike approach to the local GAA network, it’s a task Cahill appears to have succeeded in.
A Lory Meagher Cup, a Minor Leinster title and two National League accolades during the course of his reign are there for all to see.
“We looked at where we were and Glenn Ryan was taken on and that has borne fruit,” he adds. “The success we have had is as good as Longford has ever done in the history of the association. But more importantly our structures are a lot better. We have a full-time set-up, we have four coaches working with our underage development squads and a new gym in place.”
Off the field, there seems to be cause for optimism too. With local firm Glennon Brothers in place as main sponsors and a myriad of other local businesses helping the financial cause, Longford GAA’s balance sheets are expected to provide healthy reading when club delegates convene at Pearse Park for Convention night on Friday.
The income levels in Longford GAA generated cash of almost €1.4m over the past 12 months, an increase of over €200,000 on the year previous.
Pressed as to how such a turnaround was arrived at and whether a flurry of senior county replays towards the latter end of the campaign played a part, Cahill points to prudency and tighter fiscal everyday management.
“Yes we were lucky, we had three or four (replays) this year while last year we had none. But we have kept our gates reasonably static and we have lowered our prices and when we had replays we lowered our prices again.”
Describing himself as a “doer”, Cahill likewise makes no apologies for the way in which he has taken on the role of county chair over the past five years.
“If I decide or if we as a committee decide to do something, it will be done,” he stoutly puts it. “There wouldn’t be a day in the last five years that I wouldn’t have been at Pearse Park dealing with lots of different issues. I like the hands-on approach. As for other people’s views of how I do things, that’s for them to decide.”
He takes time to reflect on past members, like Padraig Gearty, Bat Lynch, Pearse Daly and other former GAA stalwarts who passed away during his time at the helm, paying tribute to each of them.
While being Chairman is a full-time job, it is not a paid position and Pat reserves special mention for his employers at Bord Na Mona who have been very accommodating in the past five years.
He also pays tribute to his family - his wife Kathleen and four children, Michael, Patrick, Mary and Catherine, all of whom will get to see him a lot more from now on.
“Whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know,” he quips, laughing momentarily to himself. “I’m sure it is going to take a little bit of adjusting. My wife, for a start , won’t understand what is after happening.”
But Cahill is not planning on retiring completely from the local GAA set-up as he is seeking a seat at Central Council level this Friday. A warm favourite to secure that position, he says he is not taking anything for granted. On a national level he is a driving force on the GAA’s Infrastructure and Safety Commiteee.
Speaking at the Team of The Championship event on Saturday night, GAA President Liam O’Neill paid a glowing tribute to the Longford Chairman , describing him as ‘a man of substance’ within the organisation.
Looking back on his tenure at the helm of Longford GAA, Pay Cahill admits that he does have one regret.
“Eight years ago when I came in as vice chairman, we looked at trying to get a training centre. At the time there were four or five centres in the country and yet eight years later we are still trying to get one.
“The planning process hasn’t helped us because Longford needs one and the fact it hasn’t happened is a disappointment,” he confides.
Frustrations aside there is little, if any, other regrets on the mind of Co Longford’s outgoing GAA chairman.
“The great thing about the GAA is there is nothing more past than a past chairman. When I step down on Friday night I will wish Pat or Brendan the best of luck and that’s it plain and simple.”
Full Report from the Longford GAA Convention in next week’s Leader & on www.longfordleader.ie
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