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Ulster Championship success proves GAA is moving forward, says Council chairman



Glory day: Cavan captain Raymond Galligan proved inspirational in leading his county to their first Ulster title since 1997

Glory day: Cavan captain Raymond Galligan proved inspirational in leading his county to their first Ulster title since 1997

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Glory day: Cavan captain Raymond Galligan proved inspirational in leading his county to their first Ulster title since 1997

Ulster Council chairman Oliver Galligan is convinced that the provincial body have broken new ground by the hugely efficient manner in which their flagship competition was completed within a three-week period.

And he feels that this in tandem with the diligent overall operation that saw no fewer than four team managements confirmed within a fortnight offers considerable proof that the wheels of change within the Association tend to turn rather more quickly now.

In the not too distant past, anticipated problems such as those posed by the staging of Championship matches in winter, the prospect of players perhaps scaling a new peak in terms of performance in deserted grounds and the imposition of demanding protocols would have been deemed insurmountable.

Instead, as the curtain is about to be brought down on one of the most traumatic years in the history of the GAA, Ulster can stand tall having scripted an even more formidable image.

Over the course of the past 20 years, the GAA itself has undergone a complete transformation.

Ill-equipped grounds, naked thuggery on the field of play, an intolerance of other sports, a lack of female involvement, inadequate disciplinary procedures and casual, off the cuff coaching are thankfully consigned to the past.

Today, the Association is a vibrant, dynamic, positive sporting body with all creeds and classes welcome under its roof, a go-ahead philosophy that augurs well for the future and an enthusiasm to embrace change rather than fear it.

And if the past few weeks have shone an even greater spotlight on just how the island's biggest sporting body in general and the Ulster Council in particular go about their business even against the intimidating backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 threat, then it can be safely assumed that this mantra will be adopted for the future.

"It's worth pointing out that at one stage we thought we would have no Ulster Championship," reflected Galligan.

"Yet look what happened. We had one of our best Championships ever, protocols were observed to the letter and the overall image of the Ulster series was given a big lift.

"We never believed that we would get the entire competition completed within a three-week period without a hitch. I thought the Ulster Council staff, especially our PRO Declan Woods, did herculean work. The teams, management, officials and media pulled together superbly. We can go forward with confidence, that's for sure."

If the Championship hit the right note, then the rota of managerial appointments that followed proved equally captivating.

Time was indeed when managerial appointments on occasions tended to morph into lengthy, often boring sagas with the announcement that a new boss had been appointed greeted more often with relief than anything else.

How refreshing, then, it was to note the committed and cohesive manner in which the Tyrone, Antrim and Louth county boards applied themselves to the task of putting new managers in place while Ryan McMenamin confirmed that he is to extend his tenure with Fermanagh.

Indeed, Lenny Harbinson had scarcely time to put his feet up following his stint in Antrim before Enda McGinley had slipped into his role while Wayne Kierans had just completed saying his goodbyes in Louth when he was succeeded by Mickey Harte.

And with the void left by Harte in the Red Hand County now filled with Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher having already embarked on a joint management ticket, the Ulster landscape has suddenly become a much more settled domain.

Galligan believes that invaluable lessons have been absorbed by all concerned over the course of recent weeks.

"It just shows what can be achieved when people put their minds to what they want to attain," said Galligan. "For me the only slight downer is that I was not able to shake the hand of Cavan skipper Raymond Galligan when I presented him with the Anglo-Celt Cup."

And that's a big statement coming from someone whose home is visible from the back of the stand at Kingspan Breffni!​​​​​​​​​​

Belfast Telegraph