The GAA is pleased to confirm the recipients for Gradaim an Uachtaráin 2022. These prestigious annual awards, organised with the support of AIB and broadcast by TG4 on Friday, February 11th at 10.20pm, affords Uachtarán CLG with an opportunity to acknowledge outstanding commitment and long service across the club and county network.
The 11 awards are a cross-section of people who have shared the common theme of making an inspirational impact on their code and also their club and community.
Uachtarán CLG Larry McCarthy said: “The GAA is about Games, but it is people who make the GAA what it is. The GAA Presidents’ Awards is an opportunity for the Association to acknowledge a group of inspirational people who have made an outstanding contribution towards the success of Gaelic games.”
“They are, in many respects, ambassadors for the tens of thousands of volunteers who dedicate themselves to the promotion of Gaelic games at club, school and county levels and who we are so fortunate to call our own.”
“Their work is not motivated by recognition – but that is why it is all the more important to appreciate the work that they do and celebrate the fact the GAA is the better for it.
I’d also like to thank AIB for their support of these awards and their long-standing support of the GAA and also acknowledge TG4 who since their foundation have played a crucial role in the promotion of our games.”
The 11 awards are made on a provincial and code basis. As well as Gaeilge, Education and International Awards, the presentation of the annual Dermot Earley Family Award will also be made.
The GAA Presidents’ Awards (Gradaim an Uachtaráin 2020) will be broadcast tomorrow night on TG4 at 10.20pm.
DERMOT EARLEY FAMILY AWARD – THE ROCK FAMILY, Dublin
The GAA and Croke Park is so tightly woven into the fabric of the Rock family that you could argue that it is almost a part of their DNA.
Their Association with the pitch on Jones’s Road is one that can be traced back for more than 100 years and both on the field and off it, the Rocks have been involved in some of the most important moments in Irish and GAA history.
A member of the Crokes hurling club, William Rock’s connection to Croke Park as a steward on match days began at a young age.
He was present for the Bloody Sunday attack on November 21, 1920 - an episode that he survived but would never talk about – not even in his later years.
By the 1930s and the explosion in popularity for Gaelic games, and huge crowds at matches, William was synonymous with big occasions, easily identified by his trademark bowler hat and for the fact that he was the custodian of the all-important match day footballs and sliotars for All-Ireland finals.
Living in the shadow of the Cusack stand on Love Lane in Ballybough, it meant the ebb and flow of the Rock family’s life was tied to the comings and goings of the matches – long before it could even be called a stadium.
In those days teams would not retreat to their dressing room at half time, but would gather in groups on the sidelines.
When play was resumed it was Rock family members who had the job of making sure the discarded fruit butts and peelings were gathered up off the pitch before games recommenced.
William’s children would go on to have their own bigger parts to play in the operation of Croke Park on match days.
William’s sons, Will and Christy, looked after the stiles, welcoming patrons to the matches. Another son, John was in the crow’s nest that was the Canal End scoreboard, while Joe would be one of the stewards that looked after the teams and the dressing rooms – a post he dutifully kept for more than 80 years and gave him a front row seat as the venue changed from a humble pitch into a world class arena.
Named after his father, Joe Rock would also be a vital cog in the match day machine and is another life-long steward at Croke Park and remains one of the key holders who helps open and close the stadium on match days.
In doing so he is now the third generation of the Rock family with keys to the pitch and maintaining more than a century of service to the existence of Croke Park.
On the field, Will’s son Barney would ensure that the Rock family were also famous for their playing ability.
An All-Ireland minor medal winner in 1979, Barney Rock was the star forward on the All-Ireland winning Dublin team of 1983 and was one of the finest sharp shooters of the decade – winning All-Stars in 1983, 1984 and 1985 in a stellar career.
It is a baton that has been passed successfully to his son Dean who has not only maintained that Rock presence as a Hill 16 hero but added more GAA history to the collection.
An All-Ireland U21 medal from 2010 and seven All-Ireland senior medals helped him cement a place in the all-time scoring charts as one of the most prolific finishers in football history.
A three-time All-Star as well, they join a prestigious group of 10 families who hold father and son All-Stars.
This Dermot Earley Family Award is recognition to a family who over four generations and more than 100 years have made a solid contribution to the success of Croke Park and the GAA – Rock solid in fact.
LEINSTER AWARD: TOMMY MURPHY, Round Towers GAA Club and Kildare Kitman
Tommy Murphy has been a constant presence within Kildare Football since the mid 1990’s. He has been involved in various guises from Kit man to Caretaker and everything in between. However, to confine him to just these labels is doing him a disservice. The contribution Tommy has made to every aspect of Kildare football is probably one that can never quite be quantified. He is very often the first person a player meets when they join the panel and the last they see when they finish up.
Former Kildare player and All-Star Johnny Doyle recalls just such an encounter ‘I remember my first night going in with the seniors, we had just lost a County Final the week previous and Tommy was the first person I met in Hawkfield. He spoke to me about the Final and seemed to know all about me and my club, the way he handled the situation for a nervous young fella coming into the panel is something I will never forget and am forever grateful for.’ This encapsulates all the unseen good that Tommy has done for Kildare down through the years.
Since he first came in as Kit man for the senior footballers under the famous Mick O’Dwyer, Tommy is the go-to person for everyone involved in Kildare. When called upon for anything Tommy’s answer is invariably yes without fail. On top of all this he has always been an ultra-positive person around a panel, no matter the result Tommy always finds a reason to be optimistic.
Kildare Football is extremely lucky to have someone like Tommy who has been the heartbeat of it all.
ULSTER AWARD: MALCOLM MACFARLANE, Bredagh GAA Club
Celebrating their golden jubilee, Bredagh GAA Club in South Belfast has 30 teams and 1,200 members and Malcolm MacFarlane is their inspirational chairperson, with a phenomenal appetite for work.
Malcolm has a strong sense of community and the potential for our games and the local club to reach out beyond the more traditional boundaries and activity. He organised exchange visits for members of the Bredagh club and the local Ballynafeigh Unionist Forum and Cultural Society in 2018.
At the start of lockdown, Malcolm and Bredagh teamed up with Rosario Football Club and Youth Centre and the Ormeau Boxing Club to distribute food worth £70,000 to elderly and vulnerable people in the Ormeau area. Over three months, they delivered to around 130 houses per week.
Having led a club fundraising drive for St Vincent de Paul last winter, he recently took the lead in initiating (along with SVP, the Salvation Army and the Ormeau Business Association) a 'Fuel Bank' to help ease winter poverty. He is also encouraging other sports clubs and trade association across the city and beyond to replicate the initiative. Malcolm has also served on the East Down Divisional Committee and was recently elected as the new Vice Chairperson. His drive and passion for the community are exemplary.
MUNSTER AWARD: PAT ENGLISH, Galtee Gaels GAA Club
Pat English has given over a half a century of dedicated service to the GAA at club and county levels and is devoted to Galtee Gaels, a club drawn from the Anglesboro-Kilbehenny area of Limerick. It is a club that nestles in the shadows of the Galtees and straddles both the Cork and Tipperary borders.
He gave many years of dedicated service as a player with the club’s junior team which came to an end when he encountered serious illness in 1987. The ultimate prize of a Limerick Junior Football Championship medal which he richly deserved tantalisingly eluded him as following his retirement, the Gaels went on to be crowned champions in 1988. The last ten years of his playing career overlapped with him becoming more and more involved in the administration of the club, something which has continued to the present day.
Recently he attended his 43rd consecutive Limerick GAA Convention and South Limerick GAA Conventions. He has served as his club’s South GAA delegate for 43 years, club secretary for 10 years, vice-chairman for three and chairman for 20 years, as well as being the club’s county board delegate, and Irish Officer, you get a sense of Pat English and his commitment to serving others.
CONNACHT AWARD: JAMES HOLOHAN, Drumreilly GAA Club, Co Leitrim
Every child in Leitrim knows Jimmy Holohan from his time as a GPO. He knows every player in the county and has been a player, selector and manager of several Drumreilly teams and the county team. He was a highly skilled and respected coach at all levels and his work as a Games Promotion Officer - whether in schools, clubs, or Croke Park Play & Stay days was always of the highest quality.
Since retiring as a GPO Jimmy is to be regularly found as a reliable steward at Leitrim GAA games and all over the Province as a Connacht GAA Steward. His legacy from his GPO work is in passing on his love of our games to new generations of players, helping build their skills and their connection with their club. It is this commitment to others that has made him such a popular selection. He has planted many acorns at club, school and county level and Leitrim GAA will reap the rewards of that work for many years to come and be all the stronger for it.
CAMOGIE AWARD: MARIE O’BRIEN, Four Roads GAA Club, Co Roscommon
Marie has been involved with Four Roads Camogie Club since it was founded in 1971 and was part of the Club’s junior team that won a very first Junior County title in 1973 and then won Senior titles in 1977, 1978 & 1979. Marie was full back on the team which won the Connacht Junior Final in 1975.
When Marie finished her playing career she got involved in administration and coaching at Club, County and Provincial levels and served in a variety of positions from Chairperson of Four Roads Camogie Club, Chairperson and Treasurer of Roscommon County Board, Chairperson of Connacht Council and has also served on Ard Chomhairle. Marie has also acted as County and Connacht Child Welfare Officer.
Dedicated to the promotion of Camogie, she has served for many years as chairperson including leading the club to the first county final as well as the All-Ireland success in 2010.
Marie was selector on the Roscommon Junior Camogie team which reached its first ever All-Ireland Junior Camogie Final in 1995. She has trained numerous underage Club teams down the years with enormous success particularly at U.14 level.
HANDBALL AWARD: BILLY LOVE, Clogh GAA Handball Club, Co Kilkenny
Billy has been a steward in Clogh Handball Club for nigh on 35 years. He has been involved in all aspects of club life, from serving as Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and currently PRO, to coaching young people to the highest of standards, giving them the opportunity to play at the highest level in all juvenile activity whilst helping players gain success at County, Provincial, National, and World level. Billy is also a great supporter of team events from U12/13, U14/15 and U16/17 teams in Feile na nGael, Community Games and School competitions.
Under Billy’s excellent guidance and coaching, both boys and girls, have been successful across all age groups and have won numerous County, Provincial, National and World Titles.
He is the current Development Officer with Kilkenny Handball Board and also currently holds the role of Leinster Juvenile Officer and National Feile Rep for GAA Handball.
Billy is widely associated with juvenile Handball coaching and has been at the forefront of a conveyor belt of National & International championship players from his own club and county. His favourite role in handball was and still is the development of young players in his club and he dedicates hours of his time every week training local children.
Billy’s passion for handball and his club is to be extremely admired. He will always find a way to raise money for the club and make sure our juveniles are given the best possible opportunities.
Trips to the World Handball Championships would not have been possible without him and all of his hard work fundraising for these tournaments in Winnipeg, Chicago and Edmonton; trips that many still look back upon fondly to this day.
LADIES FOOTBALL AWARD – FIONA CROTTY, Laffan Ballymacarbry LGFA
Fiona Crotty is a native of the famous Ballymacarbry club and the list of honours she has won is endless from Club All Ireland titles through to multiple senior All Ireland wins with Waterford and personal accolades including a TG4 All Star in 1994. It is her work off the pitch however that would make her a deserved winner of this award as she has become a role model for so many girls not only in her adopted club Ballyduff Lower but across the county and will bring this to a new level as county under 14 manager this year.
Fiona wanted her daughter to have sporting opportunities like she did in Ballymacarbry at a young age and so got involved in establishing the ladies section in Ballyduff Lower. She wanted her daughter to experience what she had experienced in the past and she was aware that playing sport would improve her confidence and self-esteem, which was important for all the young girls in the area. Fiona has been core to everything good in the club and in 2021 they were involved in Lidl One Good Club and through their innovation and hard work they won a prize. Fiona recognised the pressure on the girls in her area through the pandemic and used this initiative to focus their attention elsewhere with resounding success encouraging open communication from all. Fiona may have had her success on the pitch but people are reaping the rewards from her involvement of it.
EDUCATION AWARD – JOHN LENIHAN, UL Limerick
John Lenihan hails from the small village of Kilrishen in the southeast of Clare and from an early age was involved in his local club, O’Callaghan’s Mills as a hurler and footballer. Later he was involved in camogie management teams and served time as Chairperson. He is the heartbeat of the UL GAA Club and has been the one ever present role model of the University of Limerick’s most successful sports club over the last five decades since he began working for what was originally known as INHE Limerick 41 years ago.
The fantastic vision of the Sports Officers Ann Moran, Jacinta O Brien, and chaplain Fr. John O’Shea that realised entry into all the prestigious university GAA competitions Fitzgibbon, Ashbourne, Sigerson, and O’Connor cups was the way to go and by the end of the 1980’s was delivered. John has the unique pleasure of overseeing the first ever Campus victory in the Fitzgibbon Cup entering the competition as NIHE Limerick and winning it a few months later as the University of Limerick.
Another major personal achievement of John’s was the successful merger of both Campus GAA clubs University of Limerick (NIHE) and Thomond College of Education, All Ireland Club champions in 1978, into the vibrant club it is today. That also included Limerick County Football championship successes in the mid 1990’s.
By its nature University Sports Clubs consistently turn over its membership with an average 4 year stay for its player. However, for a college club to succeed staff involvement is essential and John’s role of recruiting the Campus Community to support the UL GAA Club is the secret of its success over the last forty plus years. Dedication and hard work is the foundation of success and John’s Modes Operandi mirrors this statement and is the reason the UL GAA Club is the standard bearer of all Student Sports Clubs on the University of Limerick Campus.
INTERNATIONAL AWARD – BRENDIE O’BRIEN
Since arriving in London from Killimor, Co Galway in 1967, Brendie has been involved with St. Gabriel’s Hurling Club. From his playing days he covered all the administrative positions in the club and was a county committee delegate. During the 1990’s he worked with the underage hurlers which he cites as one of his most enjoyable times in the GAA.
Brendie served as an officer and on many sub-committees as chairperson and member in London GAA and brought great clarity and knowledge to all situations. He was heavily involved in the redevelopment of Ruislip from inception to completion.
He served as central council delegate, chairperson, and secretary of the provincial council of Britain GAA. He was one of the main forces behind the setting up of the All-Britain Championships (ABC’s), the greatest event to promote our games in Britain.
In addition to being vice-president of our association, Brendie was also a member of a number of overseas committees and Chairperson of Féile na nGael. He is still involved in working and volunteering with St. Gabriel’s, London and Provincial Council of Britain and will be willing to complete any task needed to assist and promote our games with the same commitment he always gave.
Tiomantas ar feadh an tail do chur chun cinn na gcluichí Gaelacha / a lifelong commitment to promoting Gaelic games.
GRADAIM GAEILGE – SEÁN MACCANNA, Wolfetones, Derrymacnash CLG, Co Armagh
Tá aithne fhorleathan ar Sheán Mac Cana mar ‘ghlór na gCluichí Gaelacha’ in Ard Mhacha agus tá sé ina ról mar Fhear an Tí, nó mar Fhógróir Staide, le hos cionn trocha bliain anuas. Óna chéad lá os comhair an mhicreafóin shocraigh sé go mbeadh an Ghaeilge sa chur i láthair a bhí aige agus chuir sé an Ghaeilge ar comhchéim leis an mBéarla i gcónaí.
Bhí baint mhór ag Seán lena chlub, Wolfe Tone Dhoire Mhic Cais, agus aithnítear é go forleathan in Ard Mhacha de bharr an obair uilig atá déanta ag ar son Chumann Lúthchleas Gael agus na Gaeilge ina chontae dúchais.
Chaith sé cúig bliana mar Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge in Ard Mhacha, áit ar oibrigh sé go dian dúthrachtach i gcónaí agus é ag cur chun cinn na Gaeilge, Scór agus an chultúir Ghaelaigh i gcoitinne. Is minic a iarradh air post Fhear an Tí a dhéanamh ag Scór in Ard Mhacha agus níos faide ó bhaile. Ní ról na Gaeilge amháin a ghlac sé air féin mar riarthóir i gCumann Lúthchleas Gael. Chaith sé tréimhse mar Oifigeach Leasa Leanaí ar Bhord Contae Ard Mhacha chomh maith.
Tá na blianta fada caite aige ag saothrú ar son ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge agus Chumann Lúthchleas Gael. Chaith sé a shaol oibre mar mhúinteoir iar-bhunscoile Gaeilge agus bhí an-mheas i gcónaí air ar fud Ard Mhacha mar theagascóir. Is iomaí bliain atá caite aige i gceannas ar choláistí samhraidh i gColaiste Árainn Mhór, freisin.
Chaith sé na blianta ag imirt agus i measc na rudaí a bhain sé amach ar an bpáirc imeartha, bhuaigh sé Corn Uí Ógáin sa bhliain 1967 le Coláiste Cholmáin, Iúr Cinn Trá, agus chaith sé seal ag imirt agus ina bhainisteoir ar Choláiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath.
Tar éis dó éirí as mar mhúinteoir chuaigh sé ar ais mar chúntóir Gaeilge i gColáiste Chaitríona, Ard Mhacha.
Fear é Seán a bhfuil an Ghaeilge agus Cumann Lúthchleas Gael go smior ann.
Known as the voice of Gaelic Games in Armagh, Seán has been MC in the Athletic Grounds and in other grounds in Armagh for over 30 years. As part of this role Seán has always adopted a bilingual policy and both Gaeilge and Béarla are heard in equal measure when Seán is MC. Seán has always been involved with his club Piarsaigh Eanaigh Mhóir (Annaghmore Pearses) and he is a well-known personality in Armagh due to his association with the GAA and the Irish language.
Seán spent 5 years as Oifigeach Cultúrtha/Gaeilge in Armagh in which worked diligently to promote Irish in the county as well as Scór. He has often been asked to fulfil the role of fear an tí at Scór in Armagh and further afield. He also spent time as Oifigeach Leasa Leanaí on the Armagh County Board.
He has been central in the Irish language movement, due to his association with the GAA, for many years and he spent his entire working life as an Irish language secondary school teacher.