SURGERY played a part in Joseph Blake’s football career never really getting going, but it was in the wake of recovery from another operation that the new Cork County Board public relations officer first became involved in GAA administration.
The Adrigole native, who will celebrate his 40th birthday next September, was voted in as Donal Leahy’s replacement, winning an election also contested by Francis Kenneally (Kanturk) and Cian O’Brien (Glen Rovers/St Nicholas).
The youngest of a family of six, Blake began training with Adrigole at the age of eight but six operations – three on the right leg in September 1990 and three on the left in February 1990 – meant an early retirement.
Nevertheless, by then he had become a true Cork fan, cheering on the Rebels as they beat Kerry in Killarney in 1989, and it was after another trip to St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital in 2011 that he took the first steps towards a county call-up of his own.
After a six-hour spinal fusion procedure in September 2011, he had to undergo a nine-month recovery period.
It was during this time that he took a trip to the Adrigole AGM and, despite never having served on a committee before then, found himself leaving the meeting as the new club secretary.
He served for three years and, after a year out, returned in 2016, by which time he had also become the county board delegate for Adrigole. Two years after that, he spread his wings to divisional level and became the PRO of the Beara divisional board, a role he will retain for 2019.
So what does 2019 hold for the newest addition to the county board executive?
‘It’s going to be a busy one,’ he says.
‘The diary is already starting to fill up fast, it will involve a lot of traveling to football and hurling games around the country.
‘Cork play Tipperary in Cork in the hurling championship and I have three nephews who are living in Tipperary and it will great to welcome them down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the following week Cork play Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds and it will be the Munster Champions against the All-Ireland champions. I have some great friends from Limerick so I’ll be expecting good craic in the run-up to that game.
‘I’m looking forward to working on a new executive. I’m fortunate I know most of the executive before and have dealt with a lot of them previously. I’m hoping to visit all divisions and meet the club PROs and listen to what they have to say.’
However, while it is a major undertaking, Blake is keen that it won’t take over his schedule, with some time set aside for the other passions in his life, especially golf (he has played a round in every county).
‘While the role will take up a lot of spare time, I’ll make sure it won’t consume me,’ he says.
‘I’ll still play a bit of golf when I can, my Bogey Knights Golf Society trip this year is to Rosslare, targeting the end of March, and hopefully Fergus Carey will organise a Flat Out Golf Society trip. I’ll still get my annual weekend trip to Banna in Kerry in September.
‘I’ll fortunate that some of my nephews and nieces are at an age they are beginning to play sport and I can watch them play.
‘I know that 2019 will be a busy and demanding year. As one delegate said to me at convention when congratulating me on my election, ‘You’re playing inter-county championship now, kid!’