Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

New GAA President Cooney gears up to deal with big issues

Christy Cooney is bracing himself for three of the most hectic years of his life.

The Cork man will formally succeed Nickey Brennan as GAA President at this weekend’s Congress and will immediately launch himself into a frenetic series of meetings, functions and get-togethers that will consume his life for the forseeable future.

Narrowly beaten by Brennan when the last presidential election was held, Cooney (pictured) has waited patiently to assume the hot seat.

Now the Cork man will assume command just when the GAA is dealing with a number of thorny issues.

The Experimental Disciplinary Rules, the players’ grants, ongoing use of Croke Park for international rugby and soccer, dwindling attendances at National League games and the impact of the recession on the Association are just some of the issues that will focus Cooney’s mind for now.

While Sean Kelly will always be remembered as the president who helped to have Rule 42 amended to initiate rugby and soccer at Headquarters before handing over to Brennan, the latter’s presidency has been marked by the resurrection of the International Rules, closer, though still somewhat fraught, links with the Gaelic Players Association, the signing of lucrative sponsorship deals at various levels, a restructure of the Leinster Hurling Championship and, of course, the now infamous Cork players’ strikes in both codes.

Just what legacy Cooney will leave remains to be seen.

Nickey Brennan cemented close personal links with Ulster during his presidency and was a frequent - and very welcome - visitor to these parts.

The hope is that Cooney will be similarly disposed towards Ulster where progress in stadia development, coaching, integration and schools’ football outstrips that of the other provinces. Time will tell.