04 January 2006

Kelly wants GAA to honour memory of Collins

Irish Examiner

By Tony Leen, Sports Editor

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GAA president Sean Kelly wants the association to honour Michael Collins - “one of the country’s great patriots” - by naming a major trophy or stadium in memory of the Corkman.

Mr Kelly said the absence of any official recognition of Collins was a “major historical omission” by the GAA. The president, regularly touted as a Fine Gael election candidate in his native South Kerry, refuted suggestions that his proposal was politically motivated.

“This isn’t political. I look at Collins as a great Irish hero - it shouldn’t be seen as one thing or the other, because he stands out as someone who should be honoured by the GAA.”

He insisted that, in GAA terms, there was no comparison between the contribution of Collins and that of ex-Taoiseach and President Eamon De Valera.

“I’m sure there will be people who will attempt to make this political, but it’s not. It’s an issue with people. You have to look at each case on its merits - there is no comparison between Collins and de Valera in terms of the GAA. Dev had no involvement in our games and went to very few matches.

“I’d say Bertie Ahern would have been at more matches in a month than De Valera would have attended in all his time in Government. His background was in rugby, so perhaps it’s the IRFU that should be naming something after Dev and the GAA should honour Michael Collins.”

Mr Kelly said he would have no problem with a club recognising De Valera’s historical contribution. “He was a great man too, but Dev lived a long and fruitful life - most units of the GAA which honour individuals would have recognised those whose life was cut short by the War of Independence. In two and a half years as GAA president, the only mention I have heard of Collins was by a soccer club in Belgium.”

In an interview in today’s Arena, Mr Kelly explained: “It has struck me opening pitches, clubhouses and launching new competitions that we (the GAA) are honouring everyone from presidents of Ireland to patriots, players, administrators. Reading a recent biography of Sam Maguire, and his friendship with Collins, it is clear there is a glaring omission in our association,” he said. “I find that ironic. Collins was a great GAA man, he played hurling and was a leading administrator in England. Indeed, he’s probably regarded internationally as our greatest patriot.”

He said the “old divisive political views” were being swept away by developments in the North. He also noted that neither the Munster hurling or football cups are named after anybody in particular. “I’d be a great admirer of Collins, I make no bones about that. It goes back to when I studied history at university. I remember in my final exam I wrote about Collins, and wondered would my grade depend on who was marking the exam ... I got first-class honours.”

Mr Kelly also revealed talks on the use of Croke Park by the IRFU and FAI are going well, with an agreement likely to be signed next month.

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