The GAA is steeped in history. Through the passing of time, there have been figures associated with Gaelic Games that have directed and changed the game to make it into what it is today.
An inspirational bunch, we take a look at some of the influential figures in the GAA.
Professor Agnes O’Farrelly
A matriarch of the Camogie Association and a remarkable woman. She was not only a writer, a professor and Gaelic scholar but also one of the forerunners for women’s rights.
She became president of the Camogie Association in 1935 and she led the first meeting of the UCD Camogie Club and became its first president, a title which she retained until her death in 1951.
During a time when the Camogie Association had to fight for recognition and acceptance, Agnes was a leader and all-around champion of Camogie.
Joe McDonagh will be remembered forever in the GAA for his revolutionary work.
During his presidency, he began the motion to remove Rule 21 – which prohibited members of the security forces to play for the GAA.
He also orchestrated that all football games should be played in one calendar year and that there should be a minimum of two championship games for every county team.
He was a proud Tribesman and famously sang ‘The West Awakes’ on the steps of the Hogan stand after Galway won the All Ireland in 1980.
He passed away due to illness in 2016, and this year sees the introduction of the Joe McDonagh Cup to the Hurling Championship in this memory.
Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh
A GAA icon, the voice of Gaelic Games.
Ó Muircheartaigh has the ability to invoke your passion and excite you while watching the GAA whether you’re 8 or 80.
He announced his retirement in 2010. The All Ireland Football Final between Down and Cork was the last game he commentated. His famous quotes include:
‘Seán Óg Ó hAilpín: his father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji. Neither a hurling stronghold.’
‘…and Brian Dooher is down injured. And while he is, I’ll tell ye a little story: I was in Times Square in New York last week, and I was missing the Championship back home. So I approached a newsstand and I said, “I suppose ye wouldn’t have The Kerryman, would ye?” To which, the Egyptian behind the counter turned to me and he said, “Do you want the North Kerry edition, or the South Kerry edition?” He had both – so I bought both. And Dooher is back on his feet…’
One of the most decorated GAA players, and arguably one of the greatest hurlers of all time, he is better known as King Henry.
Shefflin is the only player to win 10 All Ireland medals.
He retired from Kilkenny hurling in 2015, and his left his own legacy behind him. He also became the first GAA player to have his portrait hung in the National Gallery.
Lisa Clancy worked as the GAA Director of Communications from 2008 until 2015. She was the forefront of bringing the GAA into the digital era.
She was deeply involved in issues such as media rights and branding and was instrumental in encouraging both club and counties to promote themselves online.
The original hurling hero and an inspiration to all. As a boy, he was known as Setanta, and legend has it when he left home to join King Conor Mac Nessa’s tribe, he took his hurl and his sliotar with him.
He got his name Cú Chulainn by killing Culann’s hound when it tried to attack him. He drove the sliotar down it’s throat killing, it. The King was so impressed with his bravery and skill he became known as Cú Chulainn, cú being the Irish for ‘hound.’
Fred Cogley was Head of Sport in RTÉ, when he was inspired by BBC’s Match of Day, and proposed that Gaelic Games should be broadcasted on Sundays.
He saw the potential in this idea and it is impossible to imagine a summer without the GAA being shown on television.
Christy Ring is widely regarded as the greatest hurler of all time.
He played for his native Cork from 1939 until 1962 and won 8 All-Ireland medals, nine Munster medals and three National Hurling League medals during this time.
Ring passed away in 1979 and is remembered each year with the Christy Ring Cup.
Former Taoiseach Jack Lynch said at his funeral, ‘as long as hurling is played the story of Christy Ring will be told. And that will be forever.”
The Downey Twins
Ann and Angela Downey are from the dynasty of Kilkenny Camogie and these two camogie stars helped Kilkenny achieve numerous titles during their careers.
From 1974 to 1999, Kilkenny won 12 All Ireland Senior Camogie titles, and the sisters were central to these wins.
Angela famously boycotted a ‘Team of the Century’ presentation in protest at the absence of her twin sister from the team.
Ann is the current manager for Kilkenny camogie, who won the Very Camogie League Division 1 Final against Cork this year.
Stephen Cluxton changed the way that goalkeeping is thought about in Gaelic Football.
This year he enters his 17th year with the Dublin Senior Football team. Cluxton studied the game and developed a revolutionary kick out system.
He is level-headed and concentrated, and will always be remembered for his All Ireland winning score in 2011. He changed what it means to wear the number one jersey
Helen Rourke became the first employee and the first CEO of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association in 1997. She is longest-serving national official across all of the Gaelic Games organisations.
Last year marked her 20th year in the role and she celebrated when a record-breaking crowd of 46,286 attended the Ladies Football All Ireland Final between Dublin and Mayo.
This was an increase to 10,000 from the record set in 2016. It was also the highest attendance of a women’s sports event in 2017.
Credit has to be given to O’Rourke, as this was achieved through her hard work and promotion of Ladies Gaelic Football. An all-round record-breaking woman.
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