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Silverbridge’s Jarlath Burns, the youngest of the 5 candidates in the race to be elected John Horan’s successor as GAA President will learn his fate this coming Friday night Feb 28 when the Annual Congress will be held at Croke Park.

The GAA Annual Congress is now a far shorter affair than of old as it now begins on a Friday evening and is over on Saturday evening in what was previously a 3 day affair. In total there are 63 motions up for consideration, where playing rules, championship structure, membership, and age requirements are among the topics that will be before the floor.

But for all Armagh and Ulster Gaels the focus of this Congress will be on the opening session which sees the election of the individual who will assume the office of GAA president in 2021. Five names are in the running – Jim Bolger, Jarlath Burns, Larry McCarthy, Jerry O’Sullivan and Mick Rock.

Armagh GAA proposed Jarlath Burns who captained Armagh to the 1999 Ulster Football title, but has since served in numerous high-profile GAA administrative roles to be the GAA’s next president. An Armagh statement said Burns would make an “outstanding” GAA president.

Burns is currently Armagh’s delegate to the Ulster Council and is a member of both the Armagh and Ulster GAA Management Committees.

Jarlath Burns. Club: Silverbridge. Current role: Ulster GAA executive committee member. Occupation: Principal of St Paul’s HighSchool, Bessbrook.

His previous GAA roles included being chairman of the standing committee on the playing rules and chairman of the 125th anniversary committee.

He has also had stints on the GAA’s Central Council and Management committee while the St Paul’s High School Bessbrook principal’s roles outside the GAA have included being a member of the Eames Bradley Consultative Group on the Past which produced proposals for dealing with the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict.

“Jarlath has a profound knowledge of all aspects of the GAA, both at home and abroad,” said an Armagh GAA statement.

“As administrator at all levels, he has remained true to the values which inform and enrich our association, while never failing to challenge it where he sees that the integrity of the association and its games are at stake. 

“In an environment in which the GAA is under intense daily scrutiny and where communication skills are vital, he would be an articulate public defender and advocate of the association and a strong voice for modern and progressive action.”

Jim Bolger

Carlow GAA was delighted to nominate Clonmore Clubman, Jim Bolger, to be the next President of the GAA. The County believes the Chartered Safety Practitioner and Associate Lecturer would make a significant impact in the role of President and that his past experience makes him the ideal candidate for the role of Uachtaran. Jim is the current Leinster GAA Chairman.

Larry McCarthy

Former New York chairman Larry McCarthy has been nominated as a candidate for the Presidency of the GAA by the Exiles’ county board.

McCarthy, currently a trustee of the GAA and member of the Association’s management committee, will contest the election to succeed John Horan at the GAA Congress in February 2020.

An All-Ireland Club Championship medal winner with Thomond College, McCarthy is a native of Bishopstown, Co Cork, and has served the New York Board in a variety of roles. In addition to being Chairperson from 2008 to 2011, he was also secretary for six years, and most recently filled the role of PRO. 

At Congress in 2018, McCarthy was elected as one of the GAA’s trustees and became the first person from outside of Ireland or England to become a member of the management committee. He served on the Strategic Review Committee in 2018 under the Chairmanship of Horan, and was appointed to the Towards 150 Committee by previous president Aogán Ó Fearghail. 

As Chairman of the New York Board he served on Central Council for three years and is currently a member of the Finance Committee of the GAA. McCarthy is a long-time member and chairman of the Sligo Football Club in New York, which won their first New York senior championship in 34 years in 2019.

McCarthy is an associate professor of management at Seton Hall University in New Jersey where his specialty is sports marketing. “Studying sport on a day-to-day basis gives me a particular insight into the challenges and issues facing sporting organizations, especially amateur sporting organizations,” he said.”CLG is the greatest example in the world of a community based, amateur sport organisation.”

Jerry O’Sullivan

Cork GAA has wished Cloyne’s Jerry O’Sullivan well in his bid to be elected Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael next year.

Mr O’Sullivan recently ended a six-year stint as Vice-Chairman and Chairperson of the Munster Council. He also chaired the Cork County Board from 2009 to 2011. Other roles include County Vice-Chairperson, Youth Officer and Coaching Officer.

In a recent interview Jerry outlined his presidential credentials and what he brings to the table

“I’ve been involved in the GAA all my life and hope to utilize a lifetime of experience in the Association’s highest office. Over the years, I’ve been in any number of roles — I’ve been a player, club chairman with Cloyne, divisional chairman, county chairman and Munster Council chairman.

“It’s another step but I love being involved in the GAA — this is another level again but I’ll give it a go and we’ll see how it goes.” The amiable Cloyne clubman said he has received plenty of encouragement already from friends and acquaintances. “I’ve had a good few phone calls and messages already from people, even though I only really announced that I’d be going forward two days ago.

“Even before that I was getting plenty of advice from people, that I’d have to do this or do that in terms of running for the presidency. I’m looking forward to it but a contest is a contest after all, so you never know what the outcome might be.” O’Sullivan pointed to the experience he’s gathered as a significant asset in his candidacy: “I feel I have a lot of experience I’ve gathered over the years. That’s as a player and an administrator, I’ve dealt with players and managers alike and with GAA officials at all levels and in different circumstances.

Mick Rock

Roscommon have nominated Mick Rock to become the next GAA president. Rock is a retired school teacher and is currently chairman of the GAA’s national club committee. Previously, he was Connacht Council chairman and served on the GAA’s management committee and Central Council.

He is bidding to become the first president from Connacht since the late Joe McDonagh’s term ended in 2000.

The Elphin clubman believes that “The greatest challenge facing the GAA in the decade ahead is to redress the imbalance that has developed between the club and intercounty activity. The status and relevance of clubs need to be restored as they underpin our core values of volunteerism and community identity. The increasingly demanding levels of preparation of intercounty teams and their associated costs are becoming incompatible with our amateur ethos and are negatively impacting on other areas of our Association. 

Each of the 5 contenders all have a tremendous GAA pedigree and have already had a huge influence at club, county , provincial and in Croke Park affairs and each in their own right are more than well equipped to carry out the role of President but there can only be one winner. A healthy showing following the opening round of vote counting will be the key to getting elected as it will no doubt be the collection of second and perhaps third round votes that will see the eventual president elected.

Will delegates plum for the first overseas President or will delegates buck the trend of history which shows that of the 39 presidents we have had to date, only five of them have been Connacht men. Of course, for these past two decades of the 2000s, none of the presidents have come from Connacht, will Munster rally around the Cork duo in the field or can Leinster’s power base get their man over the line. Armagh and Ulster will feel that it is their man Jarlath Burns who is the right man for the job as he ticks all the right boxes. Jarlath has shown that he is not afraid to get his hands dirty and is in tune with the real grassroots of the GAA the clubs and the players. In Jarlath the GAA Hierarchy has the opportunity to break their traditional conservative stance and give their youngest and most vibrant candidate the chance to lead and embrace the changing attitudes of Irish Society. The GAA has the chance on Friday night to embrace and not be fearful of change by electing Jarlath who is in tune with the needs and aspirations of a “GAA bloodline badly in need of a transfusion” the youth. With so much competition from rival sports and other activities, actions rather than words is needed from the GAA to compete in a world needing and demanding change. Delegates all you have to do is make the right choice for change and progress.

I will conclude by leaving the last word to Jarlath “As the youngest of the candidates, I feel I have the energy and vision to drive the association into an exciting new era of development, improvement and efficiency. 

“I have played at the highest level and have a strong understanding of the games, having chaired the Standing Committee on Playing Rules. 

“I have also served as a chair on many other national committees. However, it is my experience as a player, former chair and currently secretary of my club Silverbridge that I feel gives me the greatest credentials for this post. 

“If rural Ireland is under threat, then our clubs are also under threat. I would seek to support clubs throughout Ireland to ensure they can continue to keep the GAA flame alive ar fud na tíre.”