IT’S not often youngsters get the chance to play in front of the GAA President of the day in a low-key club game.
But, that’s what Bishopstown’s U15 footballers did in a pre-season game against Douglas on their own patch last weekend.
It coincided with a visit from former Town player Larry McCarthy to his old stomping ground and in his current role as the association’s President, the first overseas office holder.
“He used live around the corner and would know Brian Cuthbert and others,” said Donal Murray, manager of the U15 footballers.
“Larry spoke to the lads, general chat kind of stuff, and they were probably wondering who is this guy? It will be later in life that they’ll appreciate his visit.
”He also stood in for photos with ourselves and the Douglas lads.”
The club has changed beyond recognition since McCarthy togged out as a juvenile many years ago, particularly transforming the main pitch from grass to astro and all the benefits accruing from that.
“All our under-age games and training are held on that pitch and Larry couldn’t but be impressed by the developments, which include an improved third pitch next year.”
There was also time to take in Bishopstown’s senior footballers in action against Naomh Aban in the Cork Credit Unions League with the home side prevailing by 0-10 to 0-9 in a tight game.
Since the country opened up again, McCarthy hasn’t been slow in getting to places as he outlined in a recent interview with the GAA’s website.
His first official visit to a match took in a less glamorous encounter division 3 hurling encounter between Louth and Fermanagh.
Then, it was over west to take in the Oranmore-Maree club in Galway and up north to St Malachy’s school in Armagh.
And the President hopes the pace will continue to quicken.
“The key markers have been the kids coming back, the clubs coming back in the north, the clubs coming back in the south, and then the inter-county game starting up again,” McCarthy said.
“That first weekend that kids were allowed back to clubs I visited three nurseries in Dublin - Clanna Gael Fontenoy, Naomh Barróg, Trinity Gaels - that Saturday morning and there were kids hanging out of the rafters and it was brilliant.
“The clubs themselves told me there were kids there that they had never seen before and were delighted to be out and about.
“It does give us a much greater appreciation of what we lost and what we didn't have for a period of time.
“I’ve always said that the initial objective of my Presidency was getting us back to a level of 2019.
“Where everybody was functioning well, clubs were running well, competitions were running well, and income was being generated through clubs into county boards so that they could fund their inter-county teams for the following year.
“Now, we're not there yet. Hopefully, the arrival of crowds into Croke Park (2,400 for Derry-Offaly in the division 3 league final), will be the start of that. And then later in the summer we will see a ratcheting up of the numbers.
“I'd love to see 82,000 people in Croke Park at the end of August for the All-Ireland Finals, but that's unrealistic.
“Having said that you'd like to see a significant crowd and hopefully we'll have that.
“And then you'll have the county championships which are more important for the clubs and county boards by being able to have large crowds through September, October, November, and on.”
Despite the uniquely challenging times, McCarthy is delighted with his term of office to-date.
“It's been the best job I've ever had in my life, by far. It's been flat to the mat, which I anticipated, but it's been fascinating the array of things that you're involved with.”
During his time in the role McCarthy hopes to strengthen the connection between all GAA units regardless of their location on the globe so no-one feels like they’re on the outside looking in.