Ulster Gaels among the recipients for Gradaim an Uachtaráin 2023
Ulster Gaels are among the recipients for Gradaim an Uachtaráin 2023.
These prestigious annual awards, organised with the support of AIB and broadcast by TG4, affords Uachtarán CLG with an opportunity to acknowledge outstanding commitment and long service across the club and county network.
The 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. The 11 honours 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 take place.
Margaret Keenan of the Gortin club, Co. Tyrone, is this year’s Ulster recipient, recognising her 37 years of unbroken voluntary service to the St Patrick’s club.
Another Tyrone clubwoman, Deirdre Fitzgerald from Derrytresk, picks up the Camogie Award, a recognition of her lifelong commitment and devotion to Camogie at club, county and provincial level.
From the Aghagallon club in Antrim, Bronagh Lennon has been commended with the Gradam na Gaeilige award for her work promoting the Irish Language and Scór over many years.
The efforts of the Mallon family in the development of St Paul’s Lurgan, Co. Armagh, will also be acknowledged as they recieve the Dermot Earley Family Award.
Uachtarán CLG Larry McCarthy said: “The success of the GAA has always been down to the people who, through their loyalty, selfless dedication and commitment, have invested so much to ensure that for almost 140 years the Association has gone from strength to strength. Gradaim an Uachtaráin affords us the chance to single out people who are responsible for extraordinary service to Gaelic games. In saluting the deserving recipients tonight, we are mindful that they are ambassadors for the thousands of people who do so much for the betterment of our Association. I warmly congratulate all of our recipients and acknowledge the support of TG4 and AIB in this most worthwhile initiative.”
The GAA President’s Awards (Gradaim an Uachtaráin 2023) will be broadcast on Friday 3rd February, on TG4 at 7.30pm
ULSTER – Margaret Keenan, St Patrick’s GFC, Gortin, Co Tyrone
When Margaret Keenan went to the AGM of Gortin St Patrick’s GFC in 1985, little did she realise that this would be the start of a 37-year term of unbroken voluntary service.
In a small rural club there are many challenges; getting suitable and willing volunteers to take office is amongst the most difficult. In reality, a small number of people will frequently have multiple roles. Margaret is the supreme example of a multitask volunteer. Over the years she has been the guiding hand for virtually every aspect of the club. Never afraid to take the difficult but right decision, she has the respect of club members. Highly respected for her knowledge of the ‘Official Guide’ combined with an ability to diffuse difficult situations, she can manage the most demanding challenges.
Within a year of taking the role of Secretary, Margaret married the Senior team captain Roger Keenan, their family life has revolved around Gortin St Patrick’s. Her organisational and people skills are at the heart of all activities within the club. On every match day, Margaret will be involved from early morning making arrangements. On arrival at the club grounds, she will be finalising team sheets, ensuring only players and officials enter the pitch, arranging for somebody to greet the referee, keeping a sharp eye on players and spectators during the match and then after the match helping to provide refreshments in the club kitchen. When everything is cleared at the clubrooms, she will head home to make dinner where every detail of the day’s activities will be dissected and analysed.
The club recently organised a very successful gala to celebrate 50 years since its revival in 1972. Planning started over 12 months prior to the event with a number of sub committees working on a variety of tasks. Central to this was the co-ordinating skills of Margaret. She even managed to take a trip to New Zealand to visit her daughter Molly in the weeks before the gala – but was still in control of communications, proof-reading booklets and coordinating from literally the other side of the world.
Margaret’s voluntary commitment, experience and knowledge have not gone unnoticed. At County level she has served on a number of sub-committees, currently she is Secretary of the County Hearings Committee.
This nomination and award are a very fitting acknowledgment for Margaret’s commitment and long volunteering service. Her husband Roger, daughter Molly and son Ruairí, together with the Gaels of Gortin and Tyrone, are extremely proud of her recognition
CAMOGIE RECIPIENT – Deirdre Fitzgerald, Doiretreasc Camogie Club, Co Tyrone
Deirdre has been involved in Camogie for a lifetime and has held a number of positions both Officially and Unofficially within Club, County and Provincial Camogie and Football Units. Currently Secretary of Tyrone County Board, Registrar of Doiretreasc GFC and Ulster Camogie Registrar; Deirdre is a wealth of knowledge when asked about anything Camogie or Football. A perfectionist in all that she does, Deirdre will go above and beyond what is expected when she undertakes a given task.
Her love and passion for Camogie doesn’t start and finish with her own Club; she has a genuine heartfelt love for all clubs in her County and beyond and to see them succeed gives her as much pride as seeing her own club succeed. Within Tyrone the development of Underage Camogie is something that has been worked on in recent years and whilst many people can be credited for this drive, Deirdre is one who is consistently in the background, quietly doing much of the hard work without a want or need for recognition from organising fundraisers to washing multiple kits or umpiring at games. Tripping the Country with her camera in toe, capturing the images of a sporting moment for every child is so very important to Deirdre. Her unofficial position as PRO in Tyrone is vital to the County with social media playing such an important role in the development of our sport. Deirdre brings a holistic approach to her work within Camogie and without fail, if she can be of assistance to others, that is what she will be. No task is too big or distance too far; camogie related or not, if you need something done, Deirdre will be the one to do it.
GRADAM NA GAEILIGE– Bronagh Lennon, CLG Naomh Muire Achadh Gallan, Co Aontroim
Hailing from the Aghagallon club in Antrim, Bronagh Lennon has worked tirelessly to promote Irish culture and language in her club, in her county and throughout Ulster through the various committees she has served on.
A current member of Coiste Náisiúnta Scór and former Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge for Antrim, Bronagh has been to the forefront in organising cultural events during Seachtain na Gaeilge and to ensure the Irish language has presence within the GAA in her county. Bronagh has taken part, and mentored participants, in Scór from an early age and the Irish language has more often than not had a presence in those acts. During her term as Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge Aontroma Bronagh revived Scór in the county and is currently a member of Coiste Náisiúnta Scór, Coiste Scór Uladh and is the current Rúnaí Scór Contae for Antrim.
Bronagh revived the Gaeltacht scholarship scheme in Antrim in her work as Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge in which hundreds of school goers have availed of and benefited from. Bronagh herself has a strong connection with the Loch an Iúir and Rann na Feirste Gaeltacht areas in northwest Donegal and spent many a summer teaching Irish, music and dance in Loch an Iúir. Bronagh also ensured that the Irish language had a significant presence in match programmes and on Antrim social media platforms during her time as Oifigeach Gaeilge agus Cultúir and the impact of that can still be seen clearly today.
She has organised national anthem workshops in Ulster counties as well as singing workshops in which songs ‘as Gaeilge’ were central. She has organised storytelling and singing nights as Gaeilge such as the one at Éigse na nGlinntí in CLG Mac Uilín, Baile an Chaisil. During the pandemic, Bronagh started the Saffron Singers and used the group to promote songs as Gaeilge. She ran online Irish courses for young and old as well as lectures for clubs on Irish surnames. Bronagh continues to work tirelessly to promote Irish language and culture in her native county of Antrim and further afield.
GRADAM NA GAEILIGE – Bronagh Lennon, CLG Naomh Muire Achadh Gallan
Tá Bronagh Lennon ó CLG Naomh Muire, Achadh Gallan, ag obair go dian díograiseach ag cur chun cinn an chultúir agus na Gaeilge ina club, ina contae agus ar fud chúige Uladh trí na coistí éagsúla ar a raibh sí le fada. Mar bhall reatha de chuid Choiste Náisiúnta Scór agus mar iar-Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge de chuid CLG Aontroma, tá Bronagh ar thús cadhnaíochta ag eagrú imeachtaí cultúrtha le linn Sheachtain na Gaeilge agus ag déanamh cinnte go bhfuil an Ghaeilge le feiceáil go soiléir i CLG ina contae féin le tamall de bhlianta anuas.
Tá Brónagh ag glacadh páirte i Scór agus ag déanamh meantóireachta ar ghrúpai Scór leis na blianta agus níos minicí ná a mhalairt bíonn ról ag an nGaeilge sa mhéid a chuireann sí chun stáitse. Le linn a tréimhse mar Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge CLG Aontroma, chuir sí beocht i Scór sa chontae an athuair agus tá sí anois ina Rúnaí reatha ar Scór Aontroma. Chuir Brónagh borradh faoin scéim scoláireachtaí Gaeltachta in Aontroim an athuair ina cuid oibre mar Oifigeach Cultúir agus Gaeilge agus bhain na céadta déagóirí sochar astu.
Tá ceangal láidir aici féin le Gaeltachtaí Loch an Iúir agus Rann na Feirste. Is iomaí samhradh a chaith sí ag múineadh Gaeilge, ceoil agus damhsa i Loch an Iúir. Chinntigh Brónagh go raibh neart Gaeilge le feiceáil i gcláracha cluichí agus ar ardáin chumarsáide Aontroma i gcónaí. Tá tionchar na hoibre sin fós le feiceáil sa lá atá inniu ann. D’eagraigh sí ceardlanna thar ceann CLG Uladh maidir le casadh ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ chomh maith le ceardlanna amhránaíochta ina raibh an Ghaeilge lárnach iontu. Chomh maith leis sin, d’eagraigh sí oícheanta seanchais agus amhránaíochta ar nós Éigse na nGlinntí i CLG Mac Uilín, Baile an Chaisil. Chuir Brónagh tús leis na ‘Saffron Singers’ le linn na paindéime agus d’úsaid sí an grúpa le hamhráin Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn. D’eagraigh sí ranganna Gaeilge ar líne do idir óg agus aosta, freisin, chomh maith le léachtaí ar shloinnte Gaeilge. Tá Brónagh fós ag obair go dian dícheallach chun an Ghaeilge agus an cultúr a chur chun cinn i gCumann Lúthchleas Gael.
THE DERMOT EARLEY FAMILY AWARD – The Mallon Family, St. Paul’s Lurgan, Co Armagh
The Mallon’s are originally from Omagh before they arrived in Lurgan and lived in Taghnevan estate. Philip (snr) was one of the founding members of St Paul’s GAA Club in Teghnevan and its first treasurer from 1971-1982.
They started out with underage teams and Philip’s wife Pat was a coach at under 10 and 12 in the early 1980s when there were very few, if any, female coaches. Philip would have been part of the Tenants association when Taghnevan was first built, Pat went on to be a local SDLP councillor for a long number of years looking out for the good of the local people. They continued to serve on the Committee and coach teams while bringing up their own family who all have represented the St Paul’s Club in various guises.
They can still be actively seen around the club, which have some of the best facilities in the county and the St Paul’s Club and Teghnevan area has certainly benefited from the efforts of the Mallon Family. Since 1971, St Paul’s has grown to be one of the biggest clubs in Armagh and in Lurgan where they have no shortage of neighbouring GAA Clubs.
Aside from his work on the executive Philip also trained the new group of players which included future Armagh County players: Jim McCorry, Shane McConville, Kieran McNally, Denis Seeley and the recently deceased Micky McDonald (RIP) to name but a few. The new club rewarded his and club members efforts by winning the Armagh Juvenile Championship in 1975. The following year, again under Philip’s stewardship St Paul’s won the Armagh Minor Championship. Philip served as Chairman from 1983 to 1987 before taking up the role of Secretary from 1993 to 2003, having served on the club committee in the interim period he again became Chairman from 2015 to 2017. His present role is as a trustee of the club.
While Philip was spending his energies on behalf of the club his wife Pat was also heavily involved, not only was she helping out in various roles including washing and maintaining the club jerseys she was the first Manager of the clubs under 10 team which won the league in 1980. She became a member of the local Council during this time and was instrumental in helping the club obtain its own football pitches in 2003. Certainly a very busy household!
This example of Volunteerism has also passed on to their children who apart from playing for their club have also served on various Committees over the years. Christine and the late Helena sold tickets in the early days to raise funds for a growing club as well as helping the Girls teams, while Paula, involved with Ladies football in the club since its inception now looks after the 5 to 10-year-old girls’ teams. Philip (Jr), Barry and Peter look after the underage boys’ teams U5 to U10 while moving to the next generation, Grandson Dara O’Dufaigh, Club Secretary for the past 3 years has been succeeded in his previous role as club Irish Officer by his father Jude. Stephen, former senior player, who sadly passed away is commemorated by an Under 10 tournament played in his memory.
St Paul’s are currently embarking on a new exciting development in the club, all of this drive and energy over the last 50 years plus has helped build a formidable community facility with Gaelic Games activity at the heart of it. Thanks to people like the Mallon family who have been central to it all.