He never contested an election for coaching officer, vice chairman or chairman, but Tom Lyons is ready to lead Carbery
IT certainly wasn’t planned and if somebody else had decided they wanted it more and plunged us into an election contest, we wouldn’t have been crying into our soup had we lost.
That said, it is a huge honour to be chosen as cathaoirleach of the historic Carbery junior board, following in the footsteps of some illustrious GAA people. It is also a very onerous task and as the famous saying goes, ‘The buck stops here.’ Needless to say, we will be doing our very best to advance the GAA in West Cork over the coming three years, if it goes to full term, and there are exciting and challenging times ahead for the GAA, both here and in the county in general.
How did we get here? Twenty-five years ago, we were happily involved at Bórd na nÓg level, chairman and PRO for a number of years in the sout-west, as well as very involved at club level.
Our contribution to the Carbery board was to attend meetings as Clonakilty delegate and when we did try for officership there 20 years ago, we got hammered in successive elections.
We had written off that avenue of progress and were seriously considering returning to the new Rebel Óg underage board when big John Corcoran, God rest him, approached us six years ago and asked would we be interested in becoming coaching officer. John was chairman and trying to fill all the officerships and nobody wanted the coaching job.
Being involved as Carbery minor hurling coach at the time, we had a vested interested in coaching, so we let him talk us into it, taking a role by default rather than election.
Three years later, when John was stepping down as chair, he again approached us and asked would we be interested in going for the vacant vice-chairman role. He plamásed us by saying he wanted a good, steady hand in charge of the CCC, the real governing body of the board. Refusing John was never an option, so Joe Crowley moved up as chair and we stepped in as vice-chair.
Again, no opposition, no election, another appointment by default.
We did view the position as a good challenge at that time and can honestly say that we never once considered that the usual outcome of becoming vice-chairman is to become chairman later on. That was never the intention three years ago, we simply wanted to get stuck into the job as chairman of the CCC and see what kind of fist we could make of that.
Three months ago, the reality dawned that we were expected to go for the chairman’s position at the end of the year as Joe’s term was coming to an end. We had serious qualms about it, especially as it could lead to a conflict of interests with other things in our life, especially the role as GAA correspondent here with The Southern Star. That is a role we would be very reluctant to relinquish after almost 40 years of involvement.
It took a lot of soul-searching and talking to those near and dear before finally deciding, yes, this was a unique opportunity to influence the direction of the GAA in West Cork should take and we are seriously interested in that aspect of affairs. If we passed it up now, it would never present itself again.
We were half-hoping that somebody else would throw his or her hat in the ring and that there would be an election. We have no doubt which way that would probably have gone and could gracefully walk away saying the clubs didn’t want us. But there was no sign of a hat from any direction and here we are as chairman of one of the proudest and most progressive divisions in the county, never having contested an election for coaching officer, vice-chairman or chairman.
Is it frightening, does it daunt us? Of course. If things go wrong, you step forward and take the blame. It will take huge effort and commitment to keep everything on a smooth progression and we do realize we have now committed the next three years of our life to this position. At an age when most people are glad to slip into a quiet retirement, we have stepped into the firing line. Why do it?
Because we love the GAA, love what it stands for, love the people involved in it. When we stand in the middle of a bunch of six-years-olds on a Saturday morning, drawing great energy from them, and when we sit in the chair in front of delegates from 26 clubs, trying to guide them too, we know that deep down this is what we really want in life.
We are fortunate to be surrounded by a family who have put up with this all their lives and support us every step of the way, fortunate enough to have met some marvellous GAA people through our role as journalist and board member, fortunate enough to witness at first hand the incredible commitment of so many men and women to the GAA on a totally voluntary basis. How could you not want to be involved with those people?
I could never understand how players could just walk away from the association at the end of their playing days, making no effort to get involved at club or board level.
The GAA isn’t just a pastime to throw away to one side when you’re done with it. It’s part of who you are, part of what makes you the person you are, for better or for worse. When people meet you for the first time and say, ‘Oh, you’re the GAA man,’ then we know we must be doing something right for the association and that the association is doing something right by us.
We know we have a huge task ahead of us for the coming three years, if God spares us, and that it won’t be easy, but it is the challenge we relish most. We know, too, that we have a great group of fellow officers around us and people in every club who want to join us in taking the association here in West Cork forward another few steps before handing over to the next generation.
The GAA has been here a long time before us, it will be here when we’re long gone, and if we achieve anything in improving it in our time, then it will be a job well done.
Looking forward to all your help and co-operation for the coming three years.
-Slán go Fóill