THE new GAA President wants to use his presidency to boost the sense of ‘Laoisness’.
Liam O’Neill was speaking at a civic reception in County Hall, Portlaiose last Thursday, April 26 where the council bestowed its highest honour on the Trumera man.
He said that his becoming GAA President shows that Laois people can succeed. He also wants to use his new profile to promote a sense of identity.
“If I could have one wish for my presidency, as well as giving a boost to the people who feel Laois can’t do well, I would love to develop a greater sense of Laoisness,” he said.
Mr O’Neill said he loved his county and there was “no better place on earth that Laois.”
“At times I feel that we don’t have a great sense of Laoisness in Laois and I would love to find a way where we could work together to bring that about,” he said.
He said he was delighted and proud of the work done by the Laois GAA County Board at the recent GAA congress in Killenard
“It showed Laois up very well and left a huge feel good factor,” he said. “The number of good wishes and the feelgood factor that has been around the GAA in the last fortnight has really impressed on me the responsibility on me.
“I am quite prepared for the challenge and looking forward to it”.
Mr O’Neill said it was a privilege to be honoured by the Council, and said the support given to the GAA by the Council down the years was “hugely appreciated.”
Cllr John Bonham led congratulations and said the Council was very proud to have a Laois President. He said the recession would mean Mr O’Neill would have a key role not just in leading the GAA.
“Your role is greater than you think. Today, with our young people emigrating all over the world, there is an embassy all over the world in the GAA and you will be a universal ambassador for all our people abroad,” he said.
Mr Peter Carey, County Manager attended the GAA congress.
“It was very clear that everybody there, from every part of the country, held Liam in high esteem,” he said.
He said it was clear from the congress that Mr O’Neill is a man of “integrity” with a “great work ethic.” He also praised Mr O’Neill’s work for communities, something he said county hall shared.
As Portlaoise Mayor, Cllr Matthew Keegan congratulated Liam O’Neill on behalf of the people of the county town and the Town Council. He praised the President’s club.
“Trumera prides itself on how above their weight they punch,” he said, although he recalled with good humour a game in which he played for the Town against Trumera in 1978.“I learned that having skins on your knuckles isn’t a permanent feature of your hands,” he said.
Cllr Stephen Lynch, Chairman of Mountmellick Town Council congratulated Mr O’Neill and looked forward to his first official visit to the town. New facilities are due to open in Mountmellick GAA on May 11.
Brian Allen, Chairman of Laois GAA said the presidency was historic. “This is culmination of over a century and a half of service to the GAA from Laois,” he said.
He thanked the council for hosting the evening and for backing the new coaching initiative.
Carmel McNicholl of Laois County Council read the formal citation.
“It is always with a great sense of pride that Laois County Council honours an individual from within our own county who achieves great success and represents Laois with such great distinction at local nation and international level,” read Ms McNicholl.
Apart from the citation the new President was presented with a piece of Heritage Crystal, while his wife Aine was presented with a bouquet of flowers.