HISTORY was made in Cork last week when Tracey Kennedy was confirmed as the first female chair in Cork GAA.
As nominations closed for annual convention, there was no challenge to Kennedy’s nomination and she will now be elected unopposed next month.
It has been an impressive rise for the Deputy Principal, who has gradually worked her way up from her Killeagh Club to the top position in Cork GAA administration.
After starting out as club underage secretary, before progressing to senior secretary and club delegate, Kennedy’s progression continued through Imokilly, serving first as the Division’s PRO and later as their secretary.
Six years ago, she was elected Cork County PRO after impressive work on the IT and PRO sub-committees.
In doing so she became the first female officer in Cork GAA’s history.
She arrived with a reputation as being a much-needed proponent of change.
After three years as PRO, Kennedy was elected Vice-Chairperson. And now, she graduates to the Chair.
Kennedy’s tenure signals an exciting time of change in Cork but it will be fascinating to see how she adapts to the role.
Will she remain an advocate of change and reform now that she is in the chair?
The county will expect no less.
To do so, Kennedy will need an Executive willing to contemplate change for the better, and one who has the means, the capability and the vigour to accept the challenges that face Cork now and over the next three years.
Around her, an equally fascinating picture is already forming because there will be an unprecedented number of changes in the make-up of the County’s GAA executive for 2018.
Of the seven officer positions with votes on the Executive, only PRO Donal Leahy and Irish and Cultural Officer, Diarmuid Breathnach will remain in the same officer position as this year.
The other four voting members of the Executive are representatives of the senior, intermediate, junior and divisions and are selected annually at the first county board meeting in January.
In the past, Secretary Frank Murphy would have exerted a significance influence on the County Executive even though he does not have a vote.
That was apparent last month when the executive proposed that his contract would be extended for a further year, even though Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the project that he was retained as county secretary to oversee has been completed.
With Pearse Murphy retiring as treasurer and a significant change in officers for 2018, it will be extremely interesting to see the approach of the executive for the coming year in Frank Murphy’s final year as secretary.
The race for vice chairperson is between outgoing Coaching Officer Kevin O’ Donovan and outgoing Development Officer Richard Murphy.
Last year, O’Donovan, unhappy that Cork were not taking the necessary measures to maximise its potential, circulated a Discussion Document and distributed it to the delegates.
Last week, Murphy launched the county’s Strategic Report on foot of a meeting of clubs in Éire Óg last year.
The proposed measures in this report incorporate very few of the measures proposed by O’Donovan.
There are three candidates for the position of treasurer. Diarmuid Gowen represented Cork on the Munster Council in the past year, while John Feeney is Secretary of Muskerry GAA.
In his capacity as delegate to the county board, John O’Flynn has been to the fore in pressing delegates’ claims for openness in the process for Frank Murphy’s successor, and also in seeking information on Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Interestingly, all three candidates are accountants with Feeney working for Musgraves, Gowen for Collins O’Brien Accountants in Fermoy, while O’Flynn is a partner with Deloitte.
All three are clearly very successful in their careers but the main challenge for the successful candidate will be to have the time to fill a role that Pearse Murphy did practically on a full-time basis in a voluntary capacity. Murphy is stepping down after 21 years.
There will be a contest too for development officer between Jim Hanley and ex-Midleton chair Pat Horgan.
Horgan comes from a large senior club and represented senior clubs on the current executive, while city-based Hanley was previously a member of the county executive representing the junior clubs and continues to serve Bere Island on and off the pitch.
In the past week, it has been confirmed that Aghada’s Ronan Dwane will take over as coaching officer from Kevin O’ Donovan.
Des Cullinane succeeds Noel O’Callaghan as children’s officer while Jerry Walsh from Ballydesmond will be cultural officer. Marc Sheehan and outgoing chair Ger Lane will be Cork’s Munster Council delegates. Bob Ryan continues as Central Council delegate.
With so many changes coming though, such a volume of transition will undoubtedly change the dynamic within the executive.
Even in the run-up to the convention, there is clearly a big contrast between some candidates going for the most high-profile positions up for election.
The Convention is still weeks away but already, there has been significant debate and interest on the potential outcomes of these elections which will be announced on December 8th, two days before the Convention.
A lot of hard-working, committed and highly capable people are putting their hands up for big jobs.
And some of the results should give a clear indication of the degree of change that Cork clubs want for the coming years, and whether the new executive will be truly equipped for that change.