Strong praise for Kavanagh as ‘reluctant’ chairman leaves with a strong legacy

Despite being a "reluctant" chairman when appointed to replace Peter O'Halloran in September 2019, John Kavanagh received glowing praise at Monday night's Meath GAA convention as he brought a four year term to an end.

Kavanagh announced earlier this year that he would not seek a fifth year in the role and at convention he received resounding praise and compliments with Clann na nGael delegate Cathal Seoighe declaring that the St Ultan's man will be remembered as "one of the great chairmen" of Meath GAA.

Leinster Council delegate Mairead Delaney thanked Kavanagh for his guidance and assistance during her time as secretary and for his running of Meath GAA over the past four years.

St Colmcille's delegate Keith Loughman said that the seeds for the All-Ireland minor football success in 2021 were sewn 10 years earlier when Kavanagh and others set up the Schools of Excellence, while Irish & Cultural Officer Joseph O’Brien said one of John Kavanagh’s greatest achievements was the raising of so much money for Pairc Tailteann and the county was now in a position to advance with development that will make the grounds one of the best stadiums in the country.

The completion of the development of Dunganny and the commencement of work on Pairc Tailteann will be Kavanagh's legacy, but the St Ultan's man wanted no praise and warned against people taking on roles at Co Committee levels "just to serve their own egos".

"As I could not give 100 percent it is only right that I step away. I was urged to stay on, do my last year and Dunganny would be my legacy, but I have never done this for personal plaudits. I hope nobody runs for position for their own ego. We are here for the 60 clubs in Meath," said the outgoing chairman.

"I have been on Meath GAA committees for over 20 years. There have been many ups and downs, the first two years as chairman were blighted by Covid, the Pairc Tailteann development was delayed and we had a vote of no confidence in our football manager.

"There were also good times. We were All-Ireland minor champions, won a couple of minor B hurling titles and the Tailteann Cup and Christy Ring Cup.

"I want to thank all the management, past and present. Thanks to all our sponsors, your support is appreciated. Special thanks to Tara (Rowan), she has been a constant in Meath GAA for 26 or 27 years.

"Thanks to my club St Ultan's and my fellow parish club Cortown, it's been a privilege to represent my clubs. To my family a special thanks for all their support. Without the support of my wife Esther I couldn't have done the work I've done.

"Back in 2019 when I was first elected Pairc Tailteann and its redevelopment was high on our agenda. Then Covid-19 hit.

I was determined not to put us into debt and I thank you for that support. Times and circumstances have now changed and now we have plans to develop a new stand on the site of the current one.

"With the increased funding from the LSSIF (Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund) we now have €8.5 million from that, €2.6 million from Croke Park, €800k from Leinster Council, €2 million from IIP (Immigrant Investment Programme) with applicants from 27 other donors from IIP, so there maybe further good news before Christmas.

"I'm very content and happy with the prudent approach Meath GAA have taken. Huge thanks to Pairc Tailteann CLG, in particular Noel Dempsey, Seamus Kenny and Liam Mulvihill.

"We have started development of three new pitches in Dunganny. The bad weather has caused a delay until later next year. That work is needed because as we progress as a county the demands on Dunganny will increase.

"In order to finance both Dunganny and Pairc Tailteann we have had to undertake some major fundraising. We have established the race day and golf classic as big fundraisers, but we need another major fundraiser, what form that will take I don't know.

"I know people will reflect on the house draw and lament it. I urge you to remember the words of Vince Lombardi: 'The greatest accomplishment is not in never failing, but in rising again after you fall'," said the outgoing chairman.

As well as considerable success off the field Kavanagh was delighted to enjoy plenty of silverware in his final year as chair.

"The sight of the cups here proves it was a relatively successful year for us. While we probably expected our hurlers to win silverware it is fair to say we didn't expect too much from the footballers.

"We didn't expect to be in the Tailteann Cup, but after the dark days of the Leinster championship it was great to enjoy the brighter day in July.

"For me our most important job is to promote our games. Our CCC has done a remarkable job and continues to do so.

“There has been an astonishing schedule of games and huge credit must go to the CCC. Instead of clubs blaming the CCC for issues, maybe the clubs should look at themselves.

"There should be zero tolerance when it comes to dealing with abuse of referees. I appeal to the clubs to take responsibility for such abuse. Instead of appealing every sending off maybe they should just accept responsibility."

In his secretary’s report Ciaran Flynn said Kavanagh demonstrated a unique ability to balance the immediate needs of the county committee with the long-term vision for Meath GAA.

"His tenure was characterised by a pragmatic yet progressive approach, whether dealing with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic or advancing the development of Gaelic games in the county,” Flynn remarked.

"He navigated the challenges with grace, led with integrity, and always placed the interests of Meath GAA at the forefront. His impact on the organization will be felt for many years to come, and his presence at the helm will be deeply missed. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours and thank him sincerely for his extraordinary service to Meath GAA," the secretary concluded.