The GAA has lost two great servants

A sad time for the Association

The GAA has lost two great servants

This week, I begin on a sad note and the death of former president of the association, Joe McDonagh from Galway.

Indeed it has been a sad couple of weeks for the Association with the death of another former president, Jack Boothman, who was a native of Wicklow. They were two great GAA men in different ways.

I knew both men well and worked with both of them.

Myself and Joe worked well together after getting off to a tetchy enough start to our relationship. I had backed Sean McCague in the presidential race, and a number of people from the county had been a little less than complimentary to him about me.

But he put me on a number of committees and when he discovered I was a genuine GAA man, we worked very well together.

Joe was a truly great GAA man. He'd had a great sense of what the GAA was about and he was good for the Association.

I felt he would have made a great full time official and spoke to him about it at one stage and encouraged him to consider it. But he had other plans.

He was a brilliant orator in both English and Irish and could speak off the cuff at great length without any bother.

I remember him giving an oration at the grave of the late Seamus O’Reilly here in Bundoran.

He spoke for 15 minutes without a note and it would have made the hair stand on the back of your head.

Great hurler

He was a great hurler and won an All-Ireland with Galway in 1980 and his rendition of ‘The West’s Awake’ from the Hogan Stand afterwards is most GAA people’s John F Kennedy moment.

I knew Jack Boothman before he became president through his involvement with the Railway Cup. He was a fine big man and a good president who also made his mark.

The fact that he was a member of the Church Of Ireland was good too. It let the world see that, contrary to the impression, the GAA was not a republican organisation and was a sporting organisation that was open to everybody.

Both Joe McDonagh and Jack Boothman made a big contribution to the development of the association. They opened many doors and let the light in.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack.