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Gallagher following a family tradition

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BUSY SCHEDULE Mayo GAA Bord na nÓg Chairman, Daithí Gallagher, is pictured being interviewed by TG4 for his job as Manager of the Wild Atlantic Way for Fáilte Ireland.

Daithí Gallagher reflects on his first year as Mayo GAA Bord na Óg chairman

Interview
Mike Finnerty

DO you remember where you were and what you were doing when a global pandemic landed on Ireland’s doorstep last March? On the night that Leo Varadkar told us that Covid-19 was going to bring the country to a halt?
Daithí Gallagher remembers it only too well. He was only a few months into his new role as Mayo GAA Bord na nÓg chairman and just starting to learn about the intricacies of things like ‘grading’ underage teams and working on fixture plans.
It turned out those quite complex issues were going to be the least of his worries!
“I remember I was in a pub in Dublin when word came through about the first lockdown last March, and I wasn’t long leaving down my pint!” he laughed last week.
“I went outside and rang Ronan Kirrane [Mayo GAA Bord na nÓg Secretary] straight away.
“My first year was thoroughly enjoyable but, of course, it was challenging,” added the 30 year-old from Castlebar. “The saving grace was that we got the ten-week window we did to run off our competitions.
“There were more than 450 games played over that ten-week period, and that’s a great testament to all the clubs and the members of our executive. We knew lads were dying to play football. Sure, there were some things we would like to have done differently but that’s always the way.
“To see the matches being played and then county finals like we had made it all worthwhile.”
Daithí Gallagher is a grandson of the late Denis Gallagher, who was a Fianna Fail TD and also served as Minister for the Gaeltacht during his distinguished political career.
He was also a former chairman of the Mayo GAA Board, so it’s no surprise in many ways that Daithí is following in his legendary grandfather’s footsteps.
He is the first to admit though that it’s been a steep learning curve, when you ask if he has ever wondered why he took on such an onerous role?
“It was great to get the experience with [Castlebar] Mitchels, but it’s a big step-up, especially around things like grading for the lower divisions, and there have been plenty of ‘robust conversations’ among the executive about those sort of things.
“But I don’t think I’ve fallen out with anybody yet!
“There are definitely challenging days; when you’re trying to sort out fixtures or referees, and you could be watching, ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ or something,” he chuckled.
“But when you’re out watching games, and to see what it means to lads to play games, and clubs to win county finals, and seeing players develop, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Gallagher works with Failte Ireland and since last September has been managing the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ in Galway, Limerick and Clare. These days he works remotely from his base in Achill, while much of his spare time is taken up by his work as a GAA volunteer.
He has learned a lot over the last 12 months about the role of the GAA in Irish life, but one thing, in particular, has struck him in his daily communications with the clubs of Mayo.
“There’s been a sea-change in attitude in the last year,” he explained. “It wasn’t all about winning a County ‘A’ title or an East Mayo ‘C’ title or whatever it was, it was about lads getting football.
“You’d see it in the e-mails that you’d get from clubs, they were all signed off with, ‘It’s all about the football’. The importance of winning competitions was replaced by the importance of playing games and mental health. One thing to come out of all of this was that we’re all working for the overall good and betterment of the organisation.”

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