A Day in the Life: John Prenty

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Connacht GAA Council secretary John Prenty is well-known across the country. Pic: Sportsfile

Factfile

Name: John Prenty
Lives: Ballyhaunis
Occupation: Connacht Council GAA Secretary

My day starts just after eight when the alarm goes off. I may have only got to the leaba six hours earlier so it can be hectic at times.
I’m a great man for porridge in the morning. My days can be a bit mad, so it’s important to have a good start. Sometimes though there’s little time for hanging around because there’s some meeting to be had or someone I need to talk with about an issue so it’s a bit like the rabbit’s breakfast - eat and run.
Every Monday morning, and usually twice more during the week, I have GAA Executive meetings. Before Covid I would have been in Dublin for these but now it’s all Teams meetings on the computer. This is grand but I rather face-to-face. The problem with Teams is it’s hard to know what’s waiting in the long grass – it’s hard to figure out what people are thinking, especially when some are sitting there with their cameras off.
Today, (Monday) I had the usual nine o’clock meeting followed by another at half ten about the Connacht final and a CCCC meeting ran from half 12 until a quarter past one. That was followed by a meeting with the Press Office about next Sunday, so it has been a busy day.
I always try to have a sandwich at some stage in the middle of the day but it’s important to remember that we’re working with thousands of volunteers so my job cannot be in any way nine to five.
There’s no point looking to talk to a fella at two o’clock when he might be at work ‘til seven in the evening. I have to structure my day around them because their time is the most important. I don’t mind that though because no day is ever the same.
All involved in the GAA are fine, genuine people. At inter-county level each county is an enemy when their in competition but when it comes to coaching initiatives or development then everyone rows in together.

Different world
I’ve been in the job since 1994 and while infrastructure, club development, coaching and the likes are in a different world now, it still comes down to getting the most people possible out on the field enjoying themselves playing football or hurling. We had a thousand kids in Bekan on Saturday playing games and that was special.
Of course, I represent all of Connacht, so from the day I took this job I had to divorce my Mayoness – otherwise I would never have got the trust of people throughout the province. When I was Mayo County Secretary I had to divorce Ballyhaunis but as soon as I left that position I was back again in the club full-time.
I’m a selector with Ballyhaunis intermediate team, so I try to get out to training two or three times a week and I love that.
There has been a huge connection between the club and our family for generations. When I was growing up the goalposts of the pitch at that time were where the back door of my house is now. The first AGM of the club I ever attended I was elected chairman. Mary (Mrs Prenty) served as secretary for years and the two lads play for the club, so it’s a huge part of our lives. Mary is a Kilconly woman, a Galway woman originally but we have her turned now. Even our dog shouts for Ballyhaunis. He goes to every game, near and far.
On an evening I get home at a normal time I like to watch the telly or read the papers. I try and read every local paper in Connacht. I enjoy finding out what’s happening locally and it’s a great way of keeping in touch. Of course, if there’s sport on the telly I’ll be glued to it. I like watching one-day cricket, soccer, football and hurling. I’m not a great fan of rugby.
I’m looking forward to a time when Covid is a thing of the past. It will be great to get people into our new dome in Bekan. When I talked about building the dome a few years ago they had a bed ready for me in the asylum, but it’s there now and it’s a great new venue for games, concerts, exhibitions, trade shows and lots more. There are exciting times ahead.

In conversation with Michael Gallagher


Quickfire questions

Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I’m not much good at golf.
Michael McDonnell, God be good to him, and John Tobin brought me to Enniscrone once for a game, but after the first hole they told me to go to the shop to get something for the lunch and to take my time coming back.

Favourite food?
I like a good steak

Most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
We were in Sydney with a Connacht Schools team a good few years ago and we went to a shark restaurant. There was a big round table in the middle of the floor and we ate everything on it.
What we were eating I don’t know, but a lot of it was unusual.

What makes you angry?
People not doing what they’re supposed to do

What do you miss most from childhood?
Being out the pitch at the back of the house playing football from morning ‘til night with the lads

Most prized possession?
Out from Mary and the two lads it has to be the dog, Archie

Favourite place in the world?
Ballyhaunis – there’s nowhere that comes close

What makes you nervous?
I hate mice. If a mouse came into the house I’d be above on the table.

Best advice you ever got?
Stay cool but don’t freeze

What do you look forward to most when Covid restrictions lift?
Thousands of people going to matches – doing what you want when you want to do it and enjoying ourselves again

First hero?
Georgie Best. I had uncles living in Manchester and they always sent me Man United gear when I was a young lad.
At one time in the mid-sixties they sent me a pair of Georgie Best boots that laced down the side and I loved them.
There weren’t many lads playing for Ballyhaunis with laces down the side of their boots.