Cork GAA: St Catherine's John O’Mahony PRO on his love for the club 

'The only reason I miss a St Catherine's match is if I am at another St Catherine's match...'
Cork GAA: St Catherine's John O’Mahony PRO on his love for the club 

St Catherine's Ronan Clancy takes on Brian Dillons James Feehan during the JAHC final replay at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE sporting year of 1993 will be recalled for many different reasons. 

Cork's trilogy of hurling league finals against Wexford, the end of Manchester United's long wait for a League title and the extraordinary events surrounding the Ainteree Grand National are events many will instantly recall. John O'Mahony of St Catherine's GAA Club remembers all the aforementioned clearly, he is very much an all-round sports fan. 

But for him, 1993 was also very significant for another reason.

It was in the opening weeks of that year that he first took up the role of club PRO. Remarkably 29 years on, John still holds the position. Even more remarkable is that he holds an almost identical tenure as the juvenile equivalent.

In the early days of 1994, St Catherine's Juvenile Club also held their Annual General Meeting. After making a very smart impression with the adult wing in his first 12 months, his name again came before the meeting. As was a year earlier, John gave his nod of approval following his nomination. It is an amazing statement of dedication to the club he loves and as 2002 dawned John's enthusiasm was as great as ever.

COMMITTED

"The only reason I miss a St Catherine's match is if I am at another St Catherine's match," comments John, who in almost three decades of service has embraced the change from pen to keyboard and paper to email and all that social media has brought with it.

 Castlemartyr's Barra Ó Tuama and St Catherine's Daniel Mangan, battling for possession during their IHC clash at Lisgoold. Picture: David Keane.
Castlemartyr's Barra Ó Tuama and St Catherine's Daniel Mangan, battling for possession during their IHC clash at Lisgoold. Picture: David Keane.

"For me it all began when the PRO post, held by the late Johnny Buckley, became vacant after his passing. He was a great neighbour, somebody who had a big influence on me. I always had an interest in GAA from a very young age and had certainly floated the idea in my mind of occupying a role such as PRO. 

"Since 1993 there have been incredible highs. As a club we have won three county titles at adult level - in 1994, 2004 and the junior success of 2017."

He is the ultimate GAA trivia man and his passion for the Ballynoe club is reflected by the effortless way that players, team line ups and matches roll off the lips. Whatever the year, wherever the match, if St Catherine's or indeed Cork teams are involved, John can pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Mention of 1994 brought an immediate reaction, as the county campaign remains high up on his roll of honour.

We had a very good team, a side built on the U12s of seven years earlier. They moved on and won a Féile title in 1989, an U16 B in 1990 and lost a county Minor A final in 1993. 

"That was also the year we had both Johnny Sheehan and Kieran Morrisson on the Cork minor selection."

As club PRO, John is very proud of the massive developments his club have undertaken off the field. Their home grounds are a stunning example of what a rural-based club can achieve by working together and pooling their resources.

John O'Mahony of St Catherine's GAA Club
John O'Mahony of St Catherine's GAA Club

"It has been fantastic to see what has emerged over the past few decades, the latest additions including a new gym and walking track just simply add to the feel-good factor. We have been fortunate that people have rowed in behind us in our efforts to expand and improve our facilities.

"When Covid struck, immediately it looked as if it could have a huge negative impact on our finances as a number of local publicans had to close their doors and thus our lotto sales disappeared. 

"But, the community rallied around. The online sales have been hugely positive and new faces in our club have helped counter the balance. A number of new parents have supported our ventures principally through their children's involvement at juvenile level. 

"It's also hugely encouraging to see so many of them becoming involved in administration. 

The majority of the underage committee is now made up of people who have moved into Conna and around the parish. 

"People such as Paddy Ryan from Herberstown and Lisa Moore from Ardfert are amongst the administrators playing key roles. 

"They are all St Catherine's people now."

St Catherine's Seanie O'Farrell bursting through Ballygarvan's James Browne, Ciaran O'Sullivan and John Spillane in 2014. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
St Catherine's Seanie O'Farrell bursting through Ballygarvan's James Browne, Ciaran O'Sullivan and John Spillane in 2014. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He is very optimistic about the club's future on the field of play having scanned his eyes across all juvenile teams year after year. As he reports on every game the club plays - he knows potential when he sees it.

"I would have to be optimistic. There are a lot of very good players coming through the ranks now. Our success at minor level last year is an indicator of positive days ahead."

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