Gerry Davenport and Bernie Brennan - Donegal's representatives on National Executive of Community Games
With Community Games celebrating their Golden Anniversary this year, we profile the two Donegal officers on the National Executive. Gerry Davenport has been at the top table for a long number of years and he was joined in recent years by Bernie Brennan as PRO and Marketing Director. This week as part of the 50th anniversary, Tom Comack spoke to both.
Gerry Davenport has been involved in the Community Games for the best part of a quarter of a century.
The Culdaff native, for the bulk of those 25 years, has been sitting at the top table at national level. He is just about to complete his second term as National President of the Community Games.
He was first elected national vice-chairman in 2002, but took over as the acting chairman following the sudden death of the then chairman.
“Michael O’Brien from Cork was the chairman. He was the father of former Cork All-Star Gaelic footballer Stephen O’Brien, and when he died I was the vice-chairperson and automatically moved up to the chair,” Gerry told the Democrat.
“I was the first Donegal person to take a top position at board level. There were many people from the county down the years that would have been on sub-committees at national level but I was the first to be elected on to the executive.
“John, Kelly, Michael and May Logue, P J Buggy, Michael Crossan and Hugh Gallagher would all have represented the county at Ulster at then at national level.
“Bernie Brennan become the second person from the county to take up an officership when she was elected PRO and Marketing Director in 2016.
“Now the two of us are on the executive,”
Gerry was still in the chair in 2004 when the position of chairman and president were amalgamated and he became the president.
And he remained on as president until he stepped down in 2008, but he was back again wearing the presidential chain when he was elected president for a second time.
He remains in the position until this day and intends to seek a third term next March at the annual general meeting.
“I turned 60 last February and I’m definitely going to seek a third term. There is still work to be done and I want to see it through and after that I will make a decision on my future.”
Gerry’s own sports were soccer and athletics in his competitive years. He played soccer with Culdaff in the Inishowen league and with Glencar in the Donegal Saturday League.
A versatile footballer Gerry was equally at home at right back and in goals.
In athletics, he specialised in 100 and 200 metres in his early years and later he took up cycling and was one of the founding members of the Errigal Triathlon Club.
“My involvement in the Community Games began when my children started taking part.
“Sinead was the first and she was followed by Andrew and Natalie, they were all members of the Swilly Seals Swimming Club.
“That is 25 years ago and when they moved on and went out the other end I remained involved.
“By that stage I had become involved on the administration side, first in the Letterkenny Area and then when John Kelly stepped down as Donegal chairman in 1998, I took over from him.
“John was a great man and great advocate for the Community Games and his boots were big boots to fit. I don’t think I ever quite managed it.
“I spent the guts of 15 years before handing over to the current chairman, Manus O’Donnell, in 2013.”
Two and half decades on Gerry remains involved locally and is still heavily involved in Community Games and all for the love of sport.
Like most, Bernie Brennan’s first involvement in the Community Games was through her family.
Her daughter Michelle was an athlete and a swimmer who won a National gold in swimming and a bronze medal in athletics.
And her sons Paul and Barry also competed and represented Donegal in National finals.
Michelle was the first to take part. That was close on three decades ago and Bernie has been knee deep in the Community Games ever since.
First at local area level and rising through county level and provincial level and now at national level.
She is the current National PRO and Marketing Director of the Community Games, a position she has held for close on three years.
“I knew nothing about the Community Games until Michelle started to take part. She won the county final and I went to Mosney with her. The finals were in Mosney back, and it was in Mosney I got the bug,” said Berne.
“Michelle won a gold medal in swimming and a bronze in athletics. That was 28 years ago and I have been involved ever since.
“My two sons Paul and Barry also competed. Paul in ballet and Barry in swimming and they both were Donegal champions and competed in National finals.
“The wheel went full circle this summer. Michelle’s daughters, Lana and Shannon, won county medals. Lana in model making and Shannon in art.
“That is the thing about the Community Games, they are not just about football and athletics. Community Games is about much more.
“It is about art, projects model making, all have been introduced in the last few years.
“Community Games is also about the grassroots and the local community.
“If you don’t have the local community and local volunteers, hundreds of them up and down the country, there would be no Community Games and it would not have grown in the last 50 years to the organisation it has become.”
Bernie’s first rung on the ladder to where she is today was as assistant secretary in the Letterkenny area of the Community Games.
She was elected onto the National Board of Directors as the Ulster representative in 2012, the first ever from Ulster to do so.
Bernie may have reached dizzy heights of PRO and Marketing Director at national level in the Community Games, but she never forgot her roots.
She was elected PRO and Marketing Director at the 2016 annual general meeting in Letterkenny.
Bernie is the assistant Letterkenny Area treasurer and the Donegal county assistant treasurer and vice-chairperson. And she is also the current Ulster treasurer.
Bernie grew up in Carrigans in East Donegal but has lived most of her adult life in Letterkenny.
She was educated at the Royal and Prior in Raphoe. Hockey was her sport growing up.
Bernie is very happy with the health of the Community Games, both locally and nationally.
She believes the organisation has taken on all the challenges of the world wide web and new media and embraced them all to the advantage of the Games.
In her position as the PRO and Marketing Director, she is at the coalface in addressing those challenges.