Donal O'Keeffe got to see Lisgoold and Imokilly land trophies in time as East Cork chairman

'When I took over there were three clubs who had never won the Jamesy Kelleher Cup and now Russell Rovers, Lisgoold and St Ita's have all seen their dreams come true...'
Donal O'Keeffe got to see Lisgoold and Imokilly land trophies in time as East Cork chairman

Imokilly’s Shane Hegarty scores a goal in the 2018 county final against Midleton. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

IT'S a time of movement at the top table of East Cork GAA with significant changes at the top table.

Lisgoold's Donal O'Keeffe has completed a highly impressive five-year term in the chair and St Ita's Avril Geary steps up to become the first chairwoman of the Imokilly division. 

For Donal O'Keeffe, it has been a busy and challenging period. 

There was real joy as the adopted Lisgoold man had the honour of presenting the Jamesy Kelleher Cup for the first time to his clubmates in their 2020 East Cork success, which proved the forerunner to two county titles. He also handed over the coveted silverware to other first-time winners Russell Rovers and St Ita's. 

On a wider scale, Imokilly's triple winners dominated the county hurling championship and with O'Keeffe the chairman for the 2018 and 2019 wins. 

"Really enjoyable but really challenging at times," reflects O'Keeffe. "Nobody could have foreseen what Covid brought, but we negotiated zoom meetings and even matches that seemed like remote events.

"So many high points along the way. Lisgoold's East Cork win was a remarkable day. 

I got the opportunity to present the cup to John Cronin. As a young player he travelled with me to Imokilly football games and he then went on to play for Cork U21 footballers and hurlers. 

"It was a great moment, but so strange. Lisgoold had waited a lifetime to reach an East Cork Final and then to win it but then nobody could attend and there were no celebrations to follow.

Cloughduv's William Ahern tackling Lisgoold talisman John Cronin. Picture Denis Boyle
Cloughduv's William Ahern tackling Lisgoold talisman John Cronin. Picture Denis Boyle

"When I took over in 2018, there were three clubs who had never won the Jamesy Kelleher Cup and now Russell Rovers, Lisgoold and St Ita's have all seen their dreams come true.

"Imokilly's wins in the county finals were magical days. There were a superb side. It would have been fantastic if they were allowed to advance and test themselves outside the country and see how they would perform against the rest of the country."

REVAMP

O'Keeffe became involved when Jim Geary approached him to become a club selector back in 1994. A native of Mourneabbey, the former Clyda Rovers player settled into life in East Cork having moved there almost 35 years ago. Having spent five years as referees administrator and another five as vice-chairman, the natural progression followed to the top job. 

"Structurally, as a group, we have made a lot of progress in terms of streamlining our leagues and championships. The formats have been updated and this year we revamped the junior football championship to have 12 teams in the top tier."

So what's next?

"I enjoy my stewarding duties at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and will continue to do so. Personally, I feel it's time to step aside and allow Avril Geary and the new officers to have their way of doing things."

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