Larry McCarthy: ‘It’s been a great honour’

By John Harrington

At Annual Congress on Saturday, Larry McCarthy’s term as the 40th President of the GAA will end.

By his own admisssion the last three years have “gone by in a blur”, which is understandable because the diary of a GAA President is a busy one.

It was that challenge of no two days being the same that he relished the most and why he looks back on it now in his final week in the position as “the best gig I’ve ever had in my life and a great honour”.

He’s gone out on a high too with Tuesday’s annoucement of the timeline towards integration with Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association one of the most signifcant moments in the history of the GAA, and there were a few other major milestones on his watch too.

“It’s very satisfying,” says McCarthy of the steady march towards integration.

“There are a couple of other things as well that I played my part in. You’ll never get any Oscars for them, but they’ve moved the organisation along and I’m very happy in that regard.

“Obviously integration is one of those things, there’s the new football championship structure, the Games Development funding model, GAAGO, dealing with the issues of HR and other stuff behind the scenes that make us a better institution ultimately.

“The most visible is the football format, and the bedding in of two things. One, the bedding in of the Tailteann Cup, and, second, the bedding in of the split season.”

He’ll be remembered too as the first ever overseas offical to be elected GAA President and it’s surely no conincidence either that World GAA has gone from strength to strength in the last three years.

“World GAA has come a huge, huge way,” says McCarthy.

“They’re publishing their new strategy document this week and one of my highlights would have been the World Games in Derry which were absolutely magnificent.

“It was a great event and a credit to everyone who was involved in it. Derry GAA in particular but also the teams who travelled from all across the globe.

“That just gives you an indication of our reach off the island of Ireland. There’s been a remarkable growth in GAA clubs around the world and one of the other highlights in that context is that I attended the French football championships in Nantes last April. On three sites all day Saturday you had 500 men and women playing Gaelic football in France, 475 of them native French.

“Now that’s a remarkable statistic. So it’s not just Irish people that love Gaelic games, that gives you an indication of what we have in terms of non-Irish people playing our games.”

McCarthy has travelled to GAA clubs all over Ireland as well as in some far-flung corners of the world and what has struck him whereever he has gone is the same defining characteristic that binds them all.

“It’s involvement in communities no matter where you go,” he says.

“I’ll give you an example of that. Last night I was at Ranelagh Gaels and they were telling me they have a number of people who are in direct provision playing with them.

“And in Kuala Lumpur there’s a team called Orang Eire who have kids from direct provision playing with them also. So, at two different ends of the world you have GAA clubs doing great work like that in their communities for the good of society.

“I keep repeating the mantra that we’re the greatest community-based sporting organisation in the world, bar none. Given my professional background I can say that with a certain degree of confidence.

“We can be our own worst critics at time and little things that happen are all of a sudden blown out of proportion sometimes, but we keep going and I’d argue that the GAA is in rude good health.”